Weak US dollar brings tourists, problems to New York

New York, Jan 23 (DPA) Hordes of tourists have been flocking to New York in record numbers over the past year, trying to unload the depreciated US dollar in a city where multimillionaires walk the streets undistinguished from the crowd.

City authorities said about 46 million people visited last year, including 8.5 million from outside the US, which was a record, spending an estimated $28 billion on hotel rooms, food and other expenses. One euro now can fetch nearly $1.50.

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The tourism office in Manhattan said the number of arrivals continued unabated in January, helped by a mild winter so far.

“Tourism is one of our biggest industries, so next time you hear someone asking for ‘Hew-ston’ Street or puzzling over the fact that Manhattan Beach is actually in Brooklyn, why not point them in the right direction?” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “You’ll be doing a service to our visitors and also to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers whose jobs depend on those visitors.”

The city aims to attract 50 million visitors by the year 2015.

Tourism recovered quickly after the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers on Sep 11, 2001. The site – known as Ground Zero – is being rebuilt and sprouting with new, modern buildings.

But if tourists and their monies are a delight for businesses and city officials, people living in the Times Square area have a different view. Times Square in mid-town Manhattan recently attracted nearly 1 million people on New Year’s Eve to witness the annual dropping of the crystal ball.

A poll conducted by a group of local businesses, the Times Square Alliance, in early January showed that 68 percent of 2,350 people working or living in the area had considered moving away, citing daily problems as a result of the dense traffic of vehicles and people.

Times Square is formed by blocks along Broadway, 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue, from 42nd Street to 48th Street. Most best known theatres in the US are situated along Broadway, generating up to $2 billion a year and are the main attraction for tourists from inside the US as well as outside.

But while Times Square workers and residents complain that the area has fallen victim to its own success, the sea of people that floods the small piece of Manhattan usually remains unaware of the congestion.

Businesses, particularly real estate ones, delight in the success of Times Square, which now has office space totalling about 32 million square feet with more than 13 million square feet to be added by 2020 with new skyscrapers being built. US and foreign corporations all want to be located in Times Square, or in Manhattan.

“No amount of development will backfire on Times Square, at least not because there are too many tourists there and it’s too crowded,” Dennis W. Russo said in an interview with the New York Times. He is a partner in the law firm of Herrick, Feinstein, who represents a number of developers in Times Square.

“It’s the centre of the world, every one wants to be there,” Russo said.