The second shooting in the tourist destination in two months came as New York City is emerging from the pandemic and confronting a wave of gun violence.
Dozens of additional police officers, some working undercover, will be dispatched to Times Square, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, a day after a tourist was struck by a stray bullet in broad daylight.
The shooting, the second in Times Square in two months, came amid an increase in gun violence in New York City that began during the pandemic and has not subsided, and led to chaos in the iconic tourist destination at a time when the city is seeking to lure back visitors. In May, stray bullets fired during a dispute struck three bystanders in Times Square, including a 4-year-old child.
At a news conference on Monday, Mr. de Blasio said that he was going to “flood the zone” with police following Sunday’s shooting, in which a man was shot once in the back and hospitalized in stable condition.
“The bottom line is we are going to flood the zone in Times Square with additional officers to make sure this situation is resolved once and for all,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We have more and more activity out there, more and more jobs coming back, more and more tourists coming back. They have to be safe and they have to feel safe.”
The increase in gun violence has cast a shadow on the city’s reopening after 15 months of lockdown. New York’s yearlong state of emergency was finally lifted last week, and Times Square is once again a bustling cacophony; on Saturday night, a full-length Broadway show was put on for a paying audience for the first time in more than 400 days, when Bruce Springsteen revived his show at the St. James Theater.
“We were up until the shooting very optimistic about our progress. We really are two steps forward and maybe a half step back,” said Tom Harris, a former New York City police officer and the president of the Times Square Alliance, a group of businesses and stakeholders that works to promote the neighborhood.
Times Square was averaging around 185,000 visitors a day last week, Mr. Harris said, and 200,000 this past weekend. The numbers are a far cry from pre-pandemic levels, when the area averaged around 360,000 visitors a day.
Still, Mr. Harris said, they represented a significant increase from 2020, and many business owners hoped the uptick was a sign of progress. He was hopeful that the increased police presence could allay concerns that Times Square was unsafe.
“We are back,” he said. “This is a speed bump in our recovery.”
On Monday afternoon, Times Square hummed with activity, and tourists seemed to take news of the shooting in stride. Many said they had looked into safety and crime statistics before their visit, and that the episode hadn’t surprised them.
“It was a little unsettling, but I feel like it’s typical for New York right now,” said Destini Moore, who was visiting the city from New Jersey for the first time to celebrate her 21st birthday with friends.
“It makes you feel a little more cautious, but I think being tourists, we’re very aware of that anyway,” said Michelle West, who was visiting from Green Bay, Wis. Large crowds of visitors have helped her family feel safer, she said.
Ashlye Schlegle, who was visiting from Amarillo, Texas, with her sons, said they had been in Times Square on Sunday when a fight broke out in a different area from where the shooting took place. Ms. Schlegle said the news of the shooting was “scary,” but she said she generally felt safe when she visited the city.
“Yesterday morning was a little rough,” Ms. Schlegle said. “But I’ve never felt unsafe here before.”
Midtown South, the police precinct that houses Times Square and the surrounding area, has seen six shootings so far this year; in the same time period last year, there were none, according to police statistics.
Rodney Harrison, the New York Police Department’s Chief of Department, said that the increased number of officers, which will include undercover officers, would engage with those involved in the “aggressive” solicitation of CDs and panhandling.
Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.