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Here's how midtown has made a major bounce back

Rockefeller Center is having its own resurgence, too.

Written by
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

If you’ve walked through Times Square lately, dodging tourists glancing upward at the New Year’s ball and mega-chain stores, dodging costumed characters eagerly seeking cash tips, elbowing commuters hustling to get to the—what’s that thing called?—oh yeah, the office, you’ve probably astutely noticed that Manhattan is far from dead, as the narrative goes.

In fact, those on waitlists to dine at top-rated midtown eateries, vying for tickets to sold-out Broadway shows and even trying to squeeze onto a train below 42nd St. at rush hour may say that midtown is having a resurgence. It’s where the life of the city is—always bustling, always bright, always busy. And it’s not going anywhere.

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These days, an average of 428,000 people walk through Times Square daily, as opposed to the pre-pandemic daily count of 365,000, says Tim Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance.

“At the Times Square Alliance, we’re trying to create the greatest experience possible for all visitors,” he says. This includes keeping the area clean and safe and also offering live and free programming, like a new TSQ Live initiative that brings comedy, dance, jazz and DJs to the plaza from 5-7pm, every Tuesday-Friday. “It’s really alive, there’s a lot of energy in the area,” Harris says.

School buses full of student tourists, business people wandering through Javits Center with convention badges, and an after-work crowd lingering at the local bars before battling bridge and tunnel traffic are all some mundane, but now appreciated signs, that midtown is far from deceased. 

Even with hybrid work, office relocating and downsizing and the decrease of population in New York City, NYC & Co., an agency that promotes the city as a destination, is working to keep folks funneling into midtown.

A Manhattan Like a New Yorker campaign ran for the first half of 2022, highlighting midtown Manhattan and iconic attractions: The Empire State Building, Times Square, Macy's, Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center.

“We’re encouraging New Yorkers to act as a tourist in their own city and revisit all the amazing sites right here in our backyard,” says Alyssa Schmid, Senior Director of Domestic Communications at NYC & Co. “We also continue to spotlight what's new and trending in Midtown through our public relations, social and marketing efforts, including new immersive art experiences and exhibitions, the opening of Summit One Vanderbilt, new hotels including Margaritaville Resort Times Square and the Hard Rock Hotel New York, restaurants, Broadway revivals and new shows, and more. There's something for everyone in midtown.”  

According to NYC & Co, New York City welcomed 32.9 million visitors in 2021, up from 22.3 in 2020. In 2022, visitation is expected to grow to 56.7 million and reach 63.7 million in 2023. That’s a lot of tourists taking selfies in Times Square. 

And while midtown business owners have suffered from pandemic-related challenges like hiring, staffing, inflation and unexpected closures, supply chain issues and product shortages, they can attest that midtown is back.  

Mark Fox, the president of Fox Lifestyle Hospitality Group, which includes midtown's The Parlor Room, The Ragtrader, Bo Peep Cocktail Bar and Street Taco says business has strengthened as guests return to pre-pandemic routines like after-work drinks and weeknight dinners.

"Absolutely, there are so many wonderful venues in midtown," he said of the neighborhood. "New York City is arguably the best adult playground in the world...the city has come roaring back to life. Our venues are busier than ever, and we are delighted to be still in business d and part of the revitalization of this amazing industry in this city that suffered so much." Spend a night in the Bo Peep basement, sipping cocktails and singing along with your servers and the live piano player, and you'll see midtown is as vivacious as ever. 

Rockefeller Center itself has seen its own resurgence—not only has it brought really cool installations, from its Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace roller skating rink to a new artsy water feature, but it's also now home to the much-talked-about Pebble Bar and other great restaurants. Rock Center is also now allowing people to dine on the rooftop of Radio City Music Hall and the Top of the Rock is apparently the no. 1 best viewpoint in the U.S. and the world.

 "I think anyone who has the narrative that midtown is dead is doing it from their couch," Harris says. “NYC is back and anyone who thinks it's dead should walk through Times Square at any time. The best is yet to come."

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