Posts Tagged ‘Times Square 1970s’

Is this the last OTB parlor in New York City?

May 15, 2017

In 2010, Off Track Betting went the way of the Automat and checker cabs—shut down by the state thanks to financial issues caused by waning interest in betting on horses.

But in Chatham Square in Chinatown, amazingly, the ghost of one OTB remains. Its doors are locked but the sign (and a Chinese translation!) is in place, a forgotten relic of a grittier 1970s and 1980s city.

New Yorkers of a certain age will remember OTB parlors (like the one below, in Times Square in 1971), each with its own cast of colorful, often sad-sack regulars placing bets or just hovering around the entrance.

A 2013 article from Daily Racing Forum recalled the Chatham Square OTB in all of its grimy glory.

“It was always crowded, and until the citywide ban you could barely see through clouds of cigarette smoke,” wrote Ryan Goldberg. “Before the races, Chinese men used to sit at the counter of the greasy dim-sum restaurant next door, examining the entries while eating Frisbee-sized pork buns.”

“Flyers notifying patrons where to cash their remaining tickets are still stuck on the dirty windows. Standing there, you half expect somebody to walk up and unlock the door, open the register and begin taking bets.”

[Second photo: NYPost/Getty Images; third photo: Bay Ridge OTB, 1977, via Flickr by Anthony Catalano]

The reinvention of a deluxe Times Square hotel

April 5, 2013

As Times Square’s fortunes rose and fell over the last century, so did the opulent hotels created to accommodate its visitors.

Take the Hotel Woodstock. Built in 1903 on West 43rd Street a half-block east of Times Square, this Beaux-Arts luxury hotel boasted of 400 rooms, plus restaurants and a ballroom.


It opened right in time to catch the area’s transformation into a theater district, nightlife hub, and of course, the crossroads of the world. Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell (below photo) were regulars.

Woodstockhotel2013By the early 1970s, it was carved up into a seedy SRO for low-income tenants.

“As late as about three years ago, the police would not venture into the lobby of the Woodstock Hotel on West 43rd Street in Manhattan without a backup team outside,” states a 1978 New York Times article.

“Prostitutes loitered in the hallways. Alcoholics and panhandlers gathered outside. Fires and break-ins were common.”

Thirty-plus years later, Times Square is a tourist mecca again, and the hotel, with a darker facade and unglamorous lobby, is across from the chic Conde Nast building.

But the Woodstock isn’t opening its doors to jet setters. It is now owned by Project FIND, a nonprofit that houses elderly New Yorkers.