Last Friday, it was a pleasure to attend the opening of the new Ford Center for the Performing Arts, another major step forward for Times Square, 42nd Street, and the entire city.
Just four years ago, Times Square was the "poster child" of urban decay, crime, and pessimism +- famous around the nation for its unsafe and dirty streets. Cynics said it couldn't be changed. But we didn't accept that tired refrain. We worked hard to change things, and did just that.
As a result of our efforts and tremendous cooperation between the public and private sectors, Times Square is now an exciting and welcoming place for families, tourists, and all New Yorkers. Over the last four years, murder in the area is down 70 percent, and overall crime has been literally cut in half.
We've seen the New Victory Theater open, and the New Amsterdam Theater +- where "The Lion King" is helping to make this one of the best Broadway seasons ever. There is a $300 million hotel and entertainment complex in the works, a new entertainment complex being developed on 42nd Street that will house 25 movie screens and a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
And there are dozens of other major retail and office projects finished or in progress, including a new MTV studios and the new Reuters North American Headquarters.
As Henry Ford once said, "One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do." That's true of New York City as well. That is why it is fitting that the company that Henry Ford built is now a part of Times Square's turnaround.
The Ford Center for the Performing Arts is the latest, and one of the greatest, additions to the area. Its architecture pays tribute to New York City's past by incorporating the Lyric and Apollo Theaters, and uses the grandeur of those old theaters as inspiration.
The result is a new, state-of-the-art space that combines a respect for history with great seating, superb sightlines, an intimate feel, and wonderful acoustics. I hope you get a chance to see the theater, and maybe even to see its inaugural production, the musical Ragtime.
Ragtime is a moving story about New York City at the turn of the 20th century +- just a few years after our consolidation in 1898. It celebrates the diversity of New York City and shows that, despite our apparent differences, we share so much across lines of race, class, background, or religion.
That is a very important lesson for us to remember, because, like the characters in the play, we are looking to meet the challenges of a new century, and to succeed.