The dangers of the old Times Square—hustlers, muggers, fake ID scammers, murderers even — were all too easy to spot. And while its easy to romanticize that era, anyone who was ever victimized along the old Times Square knows better.
But things aren’t all they seem behind the flash, lights and glitz of the Times Square of today either. The new victims in the new Times Square, says the Service Employees International Union, are the workers, often toiling with no health insurance at minimum wage jobs for employers accountable to no one.
So the union took the unusual step yesterday of renting a double-decker tour bus to give residents and journalists a tour of the new masters of Times Square: private equity firms. From Dunkin Donuts to Madame Tussauds, private equity companies, the leveraged buyout firms that take public companies private, are quietly reshaping the American economy.
In addition to the tour, the union launched a BehindtheBuyouts.org a web site that explains why the average New Yorker should care about little known world of private equity. An interactive map on the site details how pervasive private equity has become in New York.
In the 50 blocks that make up Times Square and its environs, the union said, “there are 53 stores or offices of 28 different companies that have been, are, or are about to be controlled by private equity….The buyouts of companies with locations in Times Square have together totaled more than $106 billion. Combined, those companies employ more than 530,000 workers across the United States.”
“In Times Square and across the country, the wealthy buyout industry is an engine of economic inequality at a time when it’s harder and harder for working people to get ahead,” said Stephen Lerner, Director of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Private Equity Project.”