One of New York City's grand old icons of theatre history, the statue of George M. Cohan on Broadway at 46th Street, might be moved a few blocks south of its Duffy Square home to allow for freer pedestrian traffic, The Daily News reported.
The Times Square Business Improvement District is proposing to move the 16-foot pedestal and statue of the songwriter-showman to 44th Street and Broadway, to a traffic island. Duffy Square, the current spot, also holds a statue of Father Duffy and the TKTS discount theatre tickets booth, run by Theatre Development Fund (TDF).
The move would have to be approved by the Parks Department. The Daily News quoted parks commissioner Henry Stern saying, "You don't move statues around as if you were redecorating your living room."
TDF, which operates the TKTS Booth, issued the following statement after the front-page Feb. 24 Daily News screamed, "BYE, GEORGE!": "We now understand that the proposal is only preliminary and conceptual. TDF is always interested in improving the flow of patrons on the TKTS line. We always look to the Parks Department for guidance on proposed changes to the area. As a neighbor in the park, we are interested in being involved in any discussion involving proposed changes."
According to the Daily News, BID leaders contend Times Square in general and the quarter-acre Duffy island -- on which pedestrians, performers, pigeons and theatre patrons roost -- are so full of foot traffic in the tourist-happy 1990s that people often spill over into the street, causing safety concerns. The Cohan statue has been on the site since its unveiling in 1959 and is the only theatre-related statue in the Times Square area. The producer, playwright and song-and-dance-man penned "Harrigan," "Mary's a Grand Old Name," "(I'm a) Yankee Doodle Dandy" (sometimes known as "That Yankee Doodle Boy"), "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Give My Regards to Broadway" and many other early 20th-century tunes that still stick in the American consciousness almost 100 years after they were sung in frivolous and patriotic musicals such as Little Johnny Jones (1904).
Cohan's life was immortalized is the James Cagney movie, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and his songs were the focus of the conceptual revue, George M, starring Joel Grey.
Cohan (1878-1942) also appeared as Nat Miller in the original Ah, Wilderness! as FDR in the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical, I'd Rather Be Right. He also wrote the plays Seven Keys to Baldpate, The Vagabond and The Tavern.
-- By Kenneth Jones