You know the story: After Times Square’s heyday through the 1950s, it slid into seediness and decay.
By the early 1970s, West 42nd Street was packed with sleazy characters, leaving the people who made their living in the Theater District feeling unsafe.
They sent a letter to Mayor John Lindsay proposing that the city create a legal red-light district, where the “prostitutes, pimps, perverts, and panhandlers” who made Times Square so dangerous could ply their trade.
Needless to say, Mayor Lindsay vetoed what he called a “drastic suggestion,” according to a New York Times article on August 9, 1972:
“[Lindsay] spoke of the ‘basic moral question’ of legalizing prostitution, the perhaps insoluble task of finding a location for such a district and the additional problems of controlling the influx of prostitutes that would result from legalization.”
But it took another 20 years—and a different mayor—to make a real dent in Times Square’s rep as a hooker haven.