Times Square Motor Hotel, West 43rd Street, New York City, 1975 Photo by Mary Clark
Diary of A Mad New Yorker
On August 20, 1975, I carry one suitcase into the Times Square Motor Hotel, 255 W. 43rd Street, to a room on the fourth floor. The hotel is on the corner of West 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, next to the New York Times building. My room has one window, from which I can see an adult bookstore.
That night I hear bottles crash on the roof below, prostitutes shout to one another, cops on bullhorns, police and fire sirens. A din of iniquity, so to speak.
At 4 a.m., the New York Times trucks screech and snort in the street as the morning paper rolls out.
“Don’t they know,” a neighbor complains to me, “that there are people trying to sleep here at night? Honest, hard-working people? And elderly people?”
A few days after I move in I overhear a man say, “I wouldn’t live in a place like this. Not if they paid me.”
I decide it’s a challenge. ”It’s not a bad place, “I tell a friend visiting me. “At least it’s clean.” Just then outside the window, leaves of toilet paper flutter down. A few tissues come to rest on my plants, which are inside the room on my air-conditioner.
Across the airway from me lives a huge old black man. He has no air conditioning. He keeps his window and curtains open night and day. It’s summer now and if he could climb out on the ledge and live there, I think he would.
Downstairs in the lobby, the same group congregates every day. A lot of elderly people live here and most of them are on social security. There’s a lot for them to see. One hot summer afternoon an old bum wandered in, completely naked, drunk and fully erect. He walked to the front desk and asked for a pair of pants, saying he couldn’t remember where he had put his clothes. Another time, a woman asked to have her shower fixed and ten minutes later when the engineer hadn’t come yet, she came down on the elevator, walked through the lobby stark naked to complain about it. The night manager hurried her into the office and threw a raincoat over her.
There’s romance in this group too. One day coming down in the elevator an old woman was crying, rejected, hurt. Later that day I saw her back with her boyfriend, sitting in the lobby looking a little resigned and grim, but much calmer.
One man, confined to a wheelchair because he has no legs, sits in front of the couches closest to the entrance and watches the people come and go all day. Then there is Mr. C, a neighbor of mine, who doesn’t like to go up on the elevator with anyone else. For an hour or more every afternoon after work, he waits for one that is empty or only has one passenger. Another elderly man walks around with his hands behind his back, observing everyone and taking notes in a small notebook. He always wears the same clothes, summer and winter, and won’t take the elevator either. He walks up the five flights to his room.
The elderly woman across the hall says when she can’t sleep she sits by her window and watches the fights on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street.
One night, as I close the window, I hear from the street below, “All right, let’s break it up. Move along. This is the vice squad.” Let them stay on the streets, I think. I don’t want them inside where I am.
Good night, New York!
The Times Square Hotel is now run by a non-profit agency and provides affordable housing. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.