Thursday, April 14, 2011

Former Pres. Bill Clinton nostalgic during visit to hooker-free Times Sq. with breathable air

Thursday, April 14th 2011, 4:00 AM

Former President Bill Clinton got nostalgic for the days of prostitution and crime in Times Square - a sentiment not shared by Mayor Bloomberg.
Matthews/AP
Former President Bill Clinton got nostalgic for the days of prostitution and crime in Times Square - a sentiment not shared by Mayor Bloomberg.

You can't find a hooker in Times Square anymore, former President Bill Clinton lamented Wednesday - but at least you can breathe the air.

"I remember everything about it," Bubba reminisced about his first visit to the Crossroads of the World as an 18-year-old Georgetown University freshman in 1964.

"I bought a steak at Tad's Steakhouse," he said. "I saw a hooker approach a man in a gray flannel suit. It's pretty heavy stuff for a guy from Arkansas."

Clinton took his trip down memory lane at a Gracie Mansion appearance with Mayor Bloomberg, who announced some air pollutants in Times Square have been cut in half since cars were barred from Broadway in spring 2009.

"The air quality improved slightly throughout midtown, but really significantly in Times Square, where we've been able to reduce the number of vehicles," Bloomberg said.

The mayor said cleaner air and a drastic drop in the number of people hit by cars there shows the health benefits of the new Times Square compared to the bad old days.

"If you like crime, they had it," Bloomberg said. "I suppose it's not what it was before. But the nostalgia for the good old days - when the good old days, most of us would say, weren't good - I find strange."

Clinton said Times Square is now unquestionably safer, with tourists focused on their camera phones now the biggest obstacle. But he sounded nostalgic for the seedy old days.

"I still have vivid memories of it," he said. "Romantic. Fascinating. It was dangerous."

alisberg@nydailynews.com

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