Storm clouds may have threatened, but they couldn’t dampen a long-awaited landmark event for the theatre district this Thursday, Oct. 16: The opening of the new Duffy Square and the TKTS Discount Booth. Unveiling an array of glistening red steps and a reinstated statue of Father Francis P. Duffy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the opening “a great day for New York” and hailed the new Duffy Square as a “gateway to Broadway and a beautiful symbol of Times Square’s revitalization.”
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The legendary Father Duffy, whose south-facing statue, backed by a Celtic cross, stands proudly in the center of the square, was the subject of tributes from Bruce Meyerson, chairman of the Coalition for Father Duffy, and Bishop Dennis Sullivan, who called the late military chaplain and Bronx parish priest “a quintessential New Yorker.” Further highlighting Duffy’s history, the unveiling ceremony began with a presentation of colors by the Fighting 69th, the National Guard division in which Duffy himself served as the “Fighting Chaplain” during World War I.
Emceeing was Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, who hailed the new square’s designers, as well as the public/private partnerships that made the new square possible. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a square and a cast of thousands to raise some steps!” said Tompkins. He gestured to the 24 red steps that rise behind Duffy’s statue to form a kind of amphitheatre situated over the TKTS booth.
Also on hand were Tony winner Bernadette Peters, who had just finished saying, “Food is for the body, but arts are for the soul,” when a bus tourguide called out to her. “Hi!” she replied, then commented to the assembled audience, “Obviously they agree.”
On a similar note, Times Square Alliance chairman Michael Stengel said, “We built this iconic structure for all the people standing outside this perimeter. New York would be nothing without its wonderful tourists. This island, hopefully, will be filled every day.”
TDF chairman David Holbrook referred the assembled group to the entwined history of the Square and the TKTS booth, which stretches back to 1973 and then-Mayor John Lindsay. “This remains the crossroads of the world,” Holbrook affirmed.
For her part, Bernadette Peters also cited a telling bit of history: “In 1973, I was in Mack & Mabel
. So this booth has been here for my entire career!” Peters also had the honor of announcing a generous surprise: The first 1,000 tickets would be courtesy of Target and that vouchers good for one or two tickets would be given to the first patrons in line.
Victoria Bailey, executive director of TDF, alluded to the long build-up to this day by saying, “I can’t believe we’re finally here, but I hope you’ll all agree that it’s been worth the wait…Theatre has a wonderful new venue.”
And now New Yorkers have a distinctive new public place to gather and make their theatregoing dreams come true.