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Incredible Photos Show The Sleazy Side Of Times Square Before It Became A Tourist Trap

Today 42nd Street is home to some of the top tourist destinations in New York City — Grand Central Station, the United Nations, the Chrysler Building, and flashy Times Square are all big draws for visitors.

Prior to the early 1990s, however, locals tended to avoid Times Square and the seedy establishments that were all too common there. The now ultra-touristy Times Square in particular was a breeding ground for crime, drug addiction, and plenty of X-rated peep shows.

The area underwent a major cleanup in the mid-’90s, as stricter zoning laws were implemented and economic prosperity led to a shift toward tourism and real estate. Even so, it took years to transform the area into the “Disney-fied” tourist trap it is today.

French photographer Gregoire Alessandrini shared some of the photos he took of 42nd Street when he came to New York City in the mid-1990s. The view he shows is a far cry from the shiny, family-friendly environment we know at today’s Times Square and Theatre District.

Just down the street from Port Authority on 8th Avenue, the Show World Center was a complete sex facility, with strippers, peep shows, video booths, and a large selection of adult movies, magazines, and novelties.

The center stopped showing live girls 1998, closed in 2004, and today is a haunted house known as According to the New York Daily News, Peep-O-Rama was the last pornography emporium to survive on 42nd Street, closing in 2002.

Today the site houses the Bank of America Tower, the $US1 billion skyscraper that is the third-tallest in New York City.

Previously known as the Adonis (which was closed by city health inspectors in 1994 for 'high-risk sexual activities'), the sex shop called the Playpen stood where the 8th Avenue Shake Shack stands today.

Starting in the 1970s, many classic theatres had turned into seedy cinemas specializing in adult and second-run films, and many were either demolished or relocated during Giuliani's revitalization project.

In 1998, the Empire was moved further down 42nd Street to serve as a ticket lobby for a new 25-screen cinema.

The historic Selwyn Theatre became the American Airlines Theatre after an extensive renovation project was led by the aerospace giant.

With a total seating capacity of 1,702, the New Amsterdam was the largest theatre in the city when it was built in 1903. After falling into disrepair in the late 1930s, it was converted into a movie theatre before being purchased by Disney in 1993.

The newly renovated theatre brought in other desirable media companies like MTV and ESPN.

According to USA Today, 'Times Square has always lived a double life -- even a century ago the 10-block stretch of busy Midtown streets was home to upscale splendor as well as hidden brothels and fetid hotels.

'With the invention of neon and the rise of Broadway shows, the area slowly became the entertainment center of the city.'

Giuliani and his team of developers brought in upscale hotels, theme stores, and restaurants to create the neon Times Square we know today.

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