Postcard from... New York
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Wednesday 02 January 2013
If there is one thing forever associated with New Year's Eve in New York it's the sight of a shimmering ball dropping down a 130ft pole in Times Square. The ball is reported to be some 12ft in diameter, weighing around 5kg, and is watched by millions around the country – and the world. Touching down at midnight, it signals the beginning of the new year, and has been a staple of the city's celebrations for more than a century.
You would imagine the buildings from which these billboards shine are, on ordinary days, buzzing with activity. Right behind the pole is One Times Square, perhaps the best-known property in the little stretch of midtown. It must be packed with office workers, right?
Not quite. On most days the halls of One Times Square are, well, mostly empty. And yet the 25-storey building, it emerged recently, mints money for its owners, thanks to the digital signs for the likes of Dunkin' Donuts and Sony, according to recent mortgage documents seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Advertisers, after all, get to see their brands publicised on national television every year when they cough up millions to advertise on the face of the edifice. The brands also end up on countless postcards and home videos of the millions of tourists who annually file through the square, and often show up as accidental backdrops for movies filmed in New York. The result: advertising rates in Times Square have roughly doubled over the past 10 years.
So, when the ball drops, even though their building will fall silent on the morning after, Times Square landlords will have a very happy new year.
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