In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street at midnight, Pastor David Wilkerson's heart broke over what he saw. At that time, Times Square was populated mainly by prostitutes and pimps, runaways, drug addicts and hustlers, along with live peep shows and X-rated movie houses. Pastor David cried out for God to do something - anything - to help the physically destitute and spiritually dead people he saw.
Recalling that life-changing night, Pastor David says, "I saw 9, 10 and 11 year-old kids bombed on crack cocaine. I walked down 42nd Street and they were selling crack. Len Bias, the famous basketball player, had just died of a crack overdose, and the pusher was yelling, 'Hey, I've got the stuff that killed Len.' I wept and prayed, 'God, you've got to raise up a testimony in this hellish place... The answer was not what I wanted to hear: 'Well, you know the city. You've been here. You do it.'"
Pastor David obeyed God. He opened Times Square Church in October of 1987 in Town Hall before moving it to its present location at the Mark Hellinger Theater. Pastor David's first call to New York City in 1958 has been well documented in his book, The Cross and the Switchblade.