Mickey takes on Times Square

Here comes Disney again. With Mickey Mouse, Simba and computer- controlled sprinklings of pixie dust, the film and entertainment giant is set to make true a dream that has eluded New York City's urban planners for a generation: the resurrection from sleaze and porndom of the Apple's core: Times Square.

After years of false starts, a plan is now in place to rescue the famous intersection of Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street from its current cast of sex-merchants, panderers and con-artists and turn it into a place for tourists and the family. Leading the redevelopment effort will be Disney.

While city politicians celebrate the scheme, purists who appreciate this city may mourn. The effect of it will be to disinfect an area that has arguably represented the essence of New York: its rawness, and even its aura of threat and sin. If not disinfection, then call it Disneyfication.

Disney, in partnership with New York developer, the Tishman Corporation, has been selected by the city to build a huge retail, hotel and entertainment complex on 42nd and Eighth. What is proposed is in three parts which together will make a pop-art extravaganza not for the faint-hearted.

At street level, there will be retail outlets topped off with a parade of giant neon displays. Above it will rise a 10-storey block of flats to be managed by Disney. With a jagged top edge, the apartments will represent a meteor that has crashed to earth.

Above the meteor, will soar a curving, 47-storey hotel tower. Designed by a flamboyant Miami firm of architects called Arquitectonica, it will be sheathed in multi-coloured glass, with a mirrored streak running down its centre. Thus the hotel will be the meteor's tail. Pixie dust will be released periodically from its base on to unsuspecting passers-by.

Nor will that be the limit of Disney's presence in the area. Next month, the company is expected to finalise a contract with the city to purchase and refurbish the historic New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, to use for its own productions.

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