This week, CNN and Gallup released the results of a nationwide survey that puts New York City on top. Americans said we have the best food, that we're their favorite place to visit, and that we are the place where they most want to live. A Harris Poll released in early July also showed that aside from their current home city, more Americans want to live in New York than in any other city -- making the CNN/Gallup Poll the second nationwide study in four months to show that America shares the City's optimism.
This good news didn't come easy. Four years ago New York City was known as the rotten Apple, infamous for its high murder rate, decaying infrastructure, and dirty streets. The poster child of this image was the dismal, economically depressed Times Square area of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
But in the last four years, thanks to hard work and tough decisions, New York has turned around, and with it so has Times Square, which is now a bright, clean, lively district where families feel safe. To date, over a billion dollars in private investment have been committed to the revitalization of 42nd Street, creating over 6,000 jobs. With New York City attracting record numbers of tourists, and on the strength of new developments like Disney's New Amsterdam theater, the New Victory Theater, and the soon-to-open Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Broadway has never been stronger. Hotel, retail, and office development throughout the area are thriving like never before.
This historic turnaround wasn't easy. We fought hard to turn the tide, to allow new energy and bold, innovative ideas to take the place of the old, tired, half-hearted attempts at reform. We advocated and won strict new regulations on adult-use establishments, prohibiting them within 500 feet of a house of worship, a school, a residential zone, or another adult-use establishment. Thanks to these zoning restrictions and the efforts of the 42nd Street Development Corporation, over 80 percent of the adult establishments in the Times Square area have closed, ushering in a new era.
In short, we have remade Times Square into a stable and thriving business, entertainment, and commercial district, a "Crossroads of the World" of which we can all be proud.
Times Square's surge is the result of careful strategies and years of effort, all of which have laid the groundwork for the prosperity we see today. We knew that in order to encourage lasting economic growth, we had to lay the foundation by creating a safer, cleaner environment for businesses, an environment that made it clear to New Yorkers and visitors alike that the days of neglect and denial were permanently over.
Crime reduction has been a centerpiece of this strategy. We've reduced crime in the Midtown South precinct, which includes Times Square, by 51 percent in the last four years, including an 89 percent decline in homicides and a 62 percent drop in robberies.
As part of this crime reduction, we've also made major strides in fighting vandalism -- because for decades, in Times Square and throughout the City, the destruction and defacement of property by vandals contributed to the impression that the City was out of control. Buildings were frequently marred or ruined without consequence to the perpetrators, and without any effort to restore them. That was unfair to property owners and demoralizing for the citizens of New York, who deserve better.
That is why, over the past four years, we have engineered a coordinated, multi-agency effort to reduce vandalism throughout the City. Led by the Mayor's Anti-Graffiti Task Force, we are taking vandalism seriously, sending the clear message that we care about the way New York City looks. The cleanup and revitalization of Times Square and 42nd Street is a symbol of what is happening throughout the City -- in Harlem, East New York, Flatbush, and all over.
First, we're enforcing the law. The New York City Police Department has focused and honed its efforts against vandalism, leading to over 2,300 arrests for graffiti vandalism since January of 1996.
Second, we're mobilizing to restore vandalized property. Between January and July 1997, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services had already cleaned over 67,000 square feet of graffiti -- more than double the 25,000 square feet that were cleaned in all of last year. The Department of Parks and Recreation reported that, over this past summer, the City's parks rated 94 percent acceptably clean from graffiti, a substantial increase over the summer of 1993, when they rated 73 percent acceptably clean from graffiti. And this year alone, the Department of Sanitation removed graffiti from over 50 sites, including firehouses, sanitation garages, and sidewalks.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has developed alternative sentencing arrangements with District Attorneys' Offices in all five boroughs requiring probationers to remove graffiti from housing authority property. And, in cooperation with the Family Court System, NYCHA has started a pilot program in which juvenile offenders are sentenced to graffiti clean-ups.
The Department of Probation has initiated an ambitious program in which community service crews, in cooperation with Local Development Corporations, clean graffiti on business storefronts. Thus far, they have cleaned the security gates or storefronts of over 500 businesses in Queens and Brooklyn.
The fight against vandalism is another indication that we have taken control of our future. Together, we continue to make this city, the Capital of the World, the best city it can be for businesses, working people, and families -- a place where we do not compromise on improving the quality of our lives.