Mickey and Minnie, Woody and Buzz, and Elmo and Cookie Monster were out in force in Times Square Sunday morning, but there were not many tourists to greet them.
“It’s the Frankenstorm economy,” said Mike Tyler, one of the many ticket agents canvassing the area’s pedestrian malls in search of someone — anyone — who wanted to a ticket to a show, a game or a tour. “It’s just way emptier.”
The crowds that normally clog Times Square were noticeably thin ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in New York, which has already prompted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to announce a shutdown of subways, buses and railroads beginning Sunday evening. Although visitors from around the country and the world could still be seen lining up for Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth, posing for photos against a backdrop of flashing billboards and consulting pocket-size maps of the city, the looming storm thriving economic force that is Times Square appeared to be slowing.
Mr. Tyler said he had been instructed to discount tickets that he normally sold for $130 or more to $99 or less in an effort to attract buyers who were shying away because of the impending storm.
Contemplating such deals were tourists like Randy and Sherry Chapman, from Waterloo, Iowa, who had been planning their trip to New York for months and changed their flights to come in a day earlier when they heard news of the hurricane. They were scheduled to leave on a cruise on Wednesday, to the Caribbean — “where the storm came from,” said Mr. Chapman, 56, with a chuckle — but did not know if the ship would leave on time.
“We’re a little nervous,” admitted Mrs. Chapman, 61. The couple wanted to visit the 9/11 Memorial and the Statue of Liberty, but their plans had fallen into disarray. “It just kind of depends on what the storm does.”
“The storm might end up being the entertainment,” Mr. Chapman said.
Around the square, street vendors and store owners predicted the tourist hub would empty out by this evening. At the Yankees Clubhouse Shop, signs in English and Spanish announced that the store would be closing early, at 4 p.m., because of Sandy. Walter Wells, who runs a souvenir T-shirt stand, said he and other vendors were planning to leave well before the subways were to close at 7 p.m. They usually stay out until about midnight.
Mr. Wells bemoaned the lack of foot traffic. “I mean, I got bills to pay,” he said.
The TKTS booth was still doing a healthy business, though lines were shorter than usual. Agents near the line advised tourists that though shows would likely still go on Sunday evening, shows on Monday and Tuesday might be cancelled.
Then there were Donald and Terri Beak and their two children, who appeared relatively unconcerned as they wandered around the TKTS plaza, holding shopping bags from the M&M store. “We’re English; we don’t worry about things like that,” said Mr. Beak, 48, referring to the hurricane. “We’re used to rain and bad weather.”
Though they felt slightly inconvenienced by the transit shutdown, worrying that they might have trouble getting back to the city from the New York Jets game this afternoon, they said they would be happy to ride out the storm at a shopping mall somewhere in New Jersey.
“We just don’t think it’s as bad as the TV’s making it out to be,” Mr. Beak said.
Mrs. Beak appeared willing to give the meteorologists a little more credit. “Better to be prepared, I guess,” she said.
— VIVIAN YEE
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