NEW YORK -- One of Manhattan's most famous and financially troubled landmarks, 1 Times Square Plaza, the triangular building renowned for its electronic "zipper" of news headlines and for dropping the ceremonial ball on New Year's Eve, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
The 41 tenants in the 22-story building are not expected to be affected immediately by the filing. The vacancy rate is 50 percent.
A lawyer for the owners, C. Albert Parente, said Friday that difficulties in obtaining money to modernize the building and a drop in billboard advertising led to the filing.
"With proper funding, we can do what has to be done to modernize the interior and more aggressively advertise on the exterior," he said. "We want to assure the public that the ball will drop in 1993."
Mr. Parente promised the ball still would drop next New Year's Eve.
The filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Act on Wednesday was not unexpected because the building has been in financial distress for some time.
The building is owned by three general partners: the OTC Realty Management Corp., Cosquare Inc. and the OTSM Corp., and four limited partners, including Gary Calmenson, Steven M. Israel, One Times Square Partners and Cosquare Associates. Total assets were listed as $11.7 million and total liabilities were $30.6 million.
"Obviously, any building that stands empty is bad for the city and bad for the district," said Gretchen Dykstra, president of the Times Square Business Improvement District.
"Our overarching concern is that the New Year's Eve ball lowering, which has a historic and dramatic accent on Times Square, can continue to be the powerful image," she added. "And we have no reason to believe it will not continue that way."
Architecturally similar to the Flatiron Building, the tower opened Dec. 31, 1904, as the main offices of the New York Times. The Times moved out in 1913. But the building's exterior of carved stone and Italian Renaissance terra cotta was rebuilt in 1966 into a marble monolith adorned with electric signs.
The opening of the building, also known as the Times Tower, began a tradition of celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square. For most of the past 88 celebrations, a lighted ball has been lowered atop the building at midnight.