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Times Square’s Red Steps, TKTS booth, gets new glass stairs

Five of its 27 steps were replaced over the weekend, and it’ll happen again.

The Red Steps/TKTS booth, between Broadway and Seventh

The Red Steps/TKTS booth, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Times Square, just got new stairs, each of which cost $20,000. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Times Square has a lot going on, but no matter how much hoopla or how bright the lights are, the Red Steps are a constant draw.

Since 2008, the bleachers-like ruby red steps, which serve as the TKTS booth, in Father Duffy Square have attracted mostly tourists as the perfect viewpoint for the twinkling billboards and a prime selfie spot.

But as thousands of people frequent the steps every day, its glass panels are bound to get a little warped and slippery, according to the Times Square Alliance, a not-for-profit group that maintains it.

On Sunday, five new steps were brought in via crane and installed overnight, with finishing touches done on Monday, the Alliance said.

The custom-crafted glass pieces are made to withstand thousands of pounds at a time and take a lot of abuse, which is why it is paramount that the Alliance repairs and maintains it on a regular basis.

“It’s amazing how many people drop their cellphones and cigarette butts in the cracks,” Tim Tompkins, the president of the Alliance, said. “Literally every single morning, the amazing people on our staff wipe it clean and wipe it down.”

With Tompkins’ help and some facts pulled from a booklet about the project provided by the Alliance, we’ve put together a rundown of interesting facts about the Red Steps/TKTS booth:

  • $20,000 is the cost of each step.
  • 17,000 Instagram posts a day feature Times Square and about a third of them (approximately 5,000) likely feature the Red Steps.
    “Everybody takes pictures on the Red Steps when they come to town,” Tompkins said.
  • 13,000 people walk by the steps each day.
    They’ve counted at the bottom of the steps just how many people pass by, according to Tompkins.
  • 2008 is when the piece was installed.
    The Theatre Development Fund, the Coalition for Father Duffy and the Times Square Alliance worked together on the project since 2000 but it didn’t come to fruition until October 2008.
  • 1973 is when the original TKTS booth opened.
    It was started out of a need to bring business to Times Square because it was going through an unsavory period in the 1970s. Now, anywhere between 12 and 15 percent of the Broadway audience purchase its tickets at the book every year.
  • 1,500 people can be on the Red Steps at a given time.
    The Times Square Alliance doesn’t have a solid number of how many people have been on the steps over time because the number is “churning constantly,” Tompkins said.
  • 700 entries were considered when looking for a design.
    The Australian firm Choi Ropiha won out in a competition run by the Van Alen Institute. The design evokes a Greek amphitheater and calls to the eye-catching billboard lights of Times Square, Tompkins said. Once plans were approved, the project was developed by architecture firm Perkins Eastman.
  • 350-750 pounds is about how much steps can weigh.
    They’re so heavy that they have to be brought in by crane. There’s even an entire “owner’s manual” that the maintenance team at the Times Square Alliance uses to make sure they’re maintaining it and replacing pieces correctly.
  • 27 is the number of glass steps that exist.
  • 25 is how many years you can look back over and see a real difference in the area, according to Tompkins.
    “The Red Steps represent the most significant way in which Times Square has changed in the last 25 years — it’s no longer a place where you get mugged but a place where you want to sit and hang out and watch the world go by,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, you’d watch somebody get bopped on the head.”
  • $19 million is how much the project cost, according to a New York Times article from 2008.
    It was nine times costlier than it was originally estimated, the Times wrote. The city ended up paying about $11.5 million of it. It sits on NYC parkland but the Alliance maintains it.
  • 16 feet is how high the steps reach.
  • 5-8 is how many stairs are replaced a year, which usually happens twice in a given year.
  • 1 million tickets or so are sold at the TKTS Discount Booth each year.

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