CBS News Logo Car slams into pedestrians in Times Square, killing 18-year-old woman

Last Updated May 19, 2017 12:06 AM EDT NEW YORK -- At least one person was killed and 22 others injured after a car drove through a crowd of pedestrians in Times Square just before noon Thursday. The driver, 26-year-old Richard Rojas from the Bronx, is in custody and has two prior arrests for driving while intoxicated, officials said. Rojas was charged Thursday night with one count of murder in the second-degree and 20 counts of attempted murder, NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill said in a statement.   Rojas made a U-turn onto a sidewalk in Times Square, William Aubry from the New York Police Department said. The car traveled on the sidewalk for three blocks, striking and killing Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old woman from Michigan. "Terrific sense of humor": Victim who died in NYC's Times Square rememberedWhat we know so far about Richard Rojas, driver in deadly Times Square crashPublic school officials and a member of the Elsman family confirmed to CBS News that Elsman was killed in the crash. She graduated from Portage Central High School in Portage, Michigan, in 2016. Her 13-year-old sister was injured in the incident.Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the crash was not an act of terror. "Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication this was an act of terror," de Blasio said. Rojas had been arrested in 2008 in Queens and 2015 in Manhattan for drunk driving, officials said at the press conference. Rojas is a U.S. citizen and former member of the armed services. He served in the Navy from July 2011 to March 2014, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports. He spent two months in military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, after being court martialed. He was transported to a facility to be tested for drugs and alcohol. "Today's events at Times Square were nothing short of horrific," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "As facts continue to emerge, my heart goes out to the victims of this terrible Continue Reading

Mayor de Blasio ‘not quite sure why’ people stand in cold for Times Square ball drop

He’s the mayor of New York City ... right? It doesn’t exactly come with the job, but calling the shots when the big ball drops over Times Square on New Year’s Eve is one of the perks that comes with being the boss of the Big Apple. So, naturally, it raised a few eyebrows Thursday when Mayor de Blasio threw a little shade on the time-tested tradition of crowding the Crossroads of the World to usher in the new year. “New Year’s Eve we expect as per usual, over a million people. I’m not quite sure why a million people want to stand in the freezing cold for long, long periods of time,” said de Blasio, who sounded more like the mayor of Keokuk, Iowa, than the mayor of New York City. “But they do, and we will be ready for them.” De Blasio was trying to add a little levity to the sensitive topic of Times Square security following recent terrorist truck attacks in Nice and Berlin. The mayor was at a Times Square news conference trying to reassure the public that the city’s police department stands ready to thwart any plans for a similar attack in Manhattan. But even New York’s Finest were not prepared for a Times Square takedown from the man who is supposed to be the city’s biggest cheerleader. De Blasio has been doing some cheering, though. He did tout the completion of the neighborhood’s pedestrian plaza. “Times Square is now a safer and more welcoming place for the millions of residents, commuters and tourists who visit and pass through it every day,” he said of the plaza a day earlier. But even if Hizzoner couldn’t understand the fascination with one of the most iconic celebrations in American history, that won’t stop the locals and tourists from lining up as early 8 a.m. for a choice spot. And despite the diss, de Blasio was scheduled to attend the ball drop Continue Reading

Times Square Alliance president wants to set ‘rules of engagement’ for costumed characters

The battle over costumed characters in Times Square is starting to sound like a military incursion. During a briefing Tuesday on legislation to regulate pedestrian plazas, Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins sounded more like a general. “People will be able to make a choice about approaching these characters,” he said. “The rules of engagement will be clear.” Tompkins toured the plazas with City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan). Continue Reading

City Council pushes de Blasio to draw up zoning plan for Times Square desnudas, costumed performers

The City Council is moving to authorize the de Blasio administration to rein in topless and costumed performers in Times Square. A bill was introduced in the Council Wednesday to give the Department of Transportation authority to make rules for the city’s pedestrian plazas, a legal move necessary to enact a plan laid out by a Times Square task force last fall. The task force envisioned carving the square up into zones — and allowing the costumed characters, painted desnudas, and other people soliciting money to operate only in one of them. Another civic zone would be dedicated to things like arts programming, and a flow zone would allow nothing that blocks pedestrian traffic. TIMES SQUARE NO SOLICITATION ZONE COULD BOOT DESNUDAS: BLAZ “We expect that with this power, DOT will now set out rules to bring some order out of the chaos,” said Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the bill along with Corey Johnson. The two pols represent different parts of the square. “Times Square is a place that needs to maintain its quirkiness, but having some rules in place to define what activities can take place where makes obvious sense.” The bill would allow DOT to set regulations for all pedestrian plazas in the city, which have sprung up across different neighborhoods in recent years but remained technically classified as streets. MAYOR'S TASK FORCE PROPOSES PLAN TO CLEAN UP TIMES SQUARE For Times Square, Garodnick said he hopes to see new regulations in place some time this summer. DOT would still have to create maps spelling out where tip hustling is allowed. “Our hope is to get it done before summer is in full gear,” he said. Under the task force’s recommendations, the city also pumped up the number of cops patrolling Times Square and is moving to add traffic agents to curb Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: Suburbanites seeing fewer Broadway shows, industry reps blame pedestrian plazas

The Times Square traffic jams, scary Elmos, and naked painted ladies are scaring suburbanites away from Broadway. A recent survey of Great White Way attendance found ticket sales have dropped dramatically among suburban ticket-goers to Broadway in recent years — and industry reps are blaming problems that have arisen since the city installed pedestrian plazas. TIMES SQUARE COSTUME CHARACTER FILES SECOND LAWSUIT AGAINST NYC — FOR $100M — AFTER MONDAY ARREST FOR AGGRESSIVE PANHANDLING In 2010 — the year the pedestrian plazas went up and closed off huge swaths of Times Square — some 21% of all ticket sales went to people from Long Island, Westchester and Rockland Counties, and northern New Jersey, according to the Broadway League’s “Demographics of the Broadway Audience” survey. That number has dropped since then to 15.6% in the 2014-2015 season, which just passed. New York City ticket sales have remained steady — 17.1% in for 2010-2011 season going to 17.7% last year — while domestic and foreign tourists sales have climbed. Sales to foreigners went from 14.1% to 17.5% during the same time, while attendance by American tourists went from 47.6% to 49.2%. EXCLUSIVE: TIMES SQUARE CHEWBACCA, STORMTROOPER ARRESTED Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said that the suburban dropoff corresponds to the pedestrian plazas creation, which brought traffic jams and a “carnival atmosphere” to the area. That atmosphere, she said, includes the topless panhandlers known as “desnudas,” aggressive CD hawkers, and money-grubbing costumed characters who take advantage of the pedestrian traffic. “I call it the misery index,” she said. She believes the dropoff is seen in suburbanites and not other groups because they tend to drive in, Continue Reading

Plans in the works to create pedestrian plazas like Times Square in all five boroughs

City officials want to see Times Square-like pedestrian plazas in every corner of the city - at least one in each of the city's 59 community boards.At least that's the "hope," said Andy Wiley-Schwartz, the Transportation Department's assistant commissioner for planning and sustainability."It is certainly our intention to create a pedestrian plaza in all 59 districts," Wiley-Schwartz told a City Council committee. "However, this is a community-driven, application-driven process."Officials won't be "flying over at 30,000 feet and plopping them down where a map tells us is a good spot," he said.Shutting Broadway to traffic in Times Square remains controversial, but that move is just the highest profile of 17 new pedestrian plazas around the city. Another 25 plazas are in the works, officials said.  Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Tourists, locals recall terrifying evacuation after car bomb nearly goes off in Times Square

What started as a beautiful evening in New York City turned into a nightmare for thousands of panicked people. "It's terrifying," said Christian Borgo, 32, of the upper West Side, who was shopping at the Swatch store across the street from the SUV when cops told people to move away fast. "They said there might be a bomb and everyone had to go," he said. "There was smoke coming from the car. They were clearing out everyone. People were afraid. I'm still shaking." "When I saw this happening I immediately thought, 'terrorism,'" said Marie Saint Claire, 52, vacationing from Switzerland. "It makes me scared to know how close I was to being blown up. This is life in New York now?" Sharon Marques-Feinstein was on her way to see "Billy Elliot" when she was forced to clear out of Times Square. "Whoever it was obviously wanted to kill people and inflict a lot of damage," she said. "If there was a timer, they knew what they were doing. This was a message, you know? I'm very afraid. You have to be vigilant now." "It's like something out of one of those end of the world films," said Scott Dennis, 39, of midtown who was in a taxi heading home when police stopped the car and told them to turn around. "Gasoline? Gunpowder? If that had blown here on a Saturday night, it would have been horrifying." Brooklyn resident Celine Rapp was relaxing in the pedestrian plaza near the SUV when police cleared the area. "I saw a bomb squad robot roll up to the SUV as well as guys in bomb squad gear investigating the trunk area," she said. "I am scared, but I'm thankful it didn't go off. There would have been more mass panic." "I could have been past the SUV before the fire and thought nothing of it," said James Marion of London, who was admiring the bright lights of Times Square. "I could have been there at the wrong moment, so naturally it's rattling," he said. "When I saw them going at it with the bomb-checking machine, I thought, 'My God, I was close to disaster.'" Continue Reading

Yahoo! providing free wireless Internet service in Times Square

The Great White Way has gone Wi-Fi.Yahoo! started providing free wireless Internet in Times Square on Tuesday and will offer it through next year. Web surfers can log in on their laptop or phone at the Broadway Pedestrian Plaza between 43rd and 44th Sts., where there is an area with tables and chairs. Loaner laptops are also available on a first-come, first-served basis. Competitor Google announced yesterday that it will also provide free Wi-Fi. The company is offering wireless at 47 airports - none in the New York City area - through Jan. 15. EBay has also said that it will give Delta fliers free Wi-Fi on some flights during Thanksgiving week. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Mayor Bloomberg does in Times Square what he could not with congestion pricing

The two policemen are standing in Times Square Sunday, or at least what we used to think of as Times Square before it became the newest summer tourist attraction of New York: Bloomberg Beach. It is not yet Rockaway or Coney Island or Jones Beach or Main Beach out in East Hampton, but there's plenty of time, we haven't reached the first official day of summer yet. Eventually, the city will embrace the way the furniture has been rearranged south of 47th St., literally and figuratively. Or else. If you don't embrace it, starting with the cheesy beach furniture, Mayor Bloomberg will get the City Council to pass an ordinance saying that you have to. So, at the corner of 43rd and Seventh on Sunday morning, with the sun already high in the sky, one of the uniformed cops smiled and pointed to a guy sleeping in front of Sephora. At this point in the day, what the mayor fancies as a new plaza of the city - one of his new "pedestrian malls" - looked more like a shelter. The cop said, "Ask yourself something: Who's gonna want to be the next person in that chair?" Bloomberg Beach, don't you know, is the mayor's latest attempt to landscape the City of New York in a way that makes him memorable. And it isn't just Times Square, it is other patches of concrete that stretch all the way down to Herald Square and Madison Square Park. But the most eye-catching spot right now in the mayor's memorable landscaping is Times Square, where the red-and-blue plastic chairs and the chaise lounges are supposed to make you feel more civilized and cosmopolitan than the Champs Élyssés in Paris. I ask another cop, watching the scene from in front of the ESPN Zone, what he thinks of the whole idea and he shakes his head. "Let's call it a work in progress," he said, as another street guy settled in for a nap in front of Starbucks. "Either that, or comic relief." This is supposed to be about Michael Bloomberg's continuing attempts to do something heroic about Continue Reading

Times Square pedestrian zone will remain closed to cars

The crossroads of the World has forever lost its crossing.Broadway will remain permanently closed through Times Square after an eight-month tryout that infuriated cabbies but delighted tourists.Mayor Bloomberg is set to announce the decision Thursday morning after weighing the complaints of area businesses against City Hall's statistics.One person familiar with the conclusions said traffic speeds increased slightly on Seventh Ave., but less than the 17% improvement DOT engineers predicted.The number of crashes in the heavily congested area was down sharply, the source said - helping cement the decision for Bloomberg."If lives are being saved, it's really hard to argue with," said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell.The closure turned Broadway from 47th to 42nd Sts. into pedestrian plazas, which were filled this summer with people lounging at chairs and tables.Bloomberg promised to study the effect on traffic, pedestrians and businesses closely, then announce a decision by the end of last year. The delay has fueled speculation that the results were disappointing. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading