NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The costumed characters, naked painted ladies and bus tour ticket sellers who have made all of Times Square their stomping grounds could be restricted to specific zones under legislation being considered by the City Council.
The council’s committee on transportation is holding a hearing Wednesday on legislation that would allow the city’s Department of Transportation to create rules and regulations for pedestrian plazas like the ones in Times Square.
“If you’re on your way to work, there should be a pathway for you to move through unencumbered and uninhibited,” said New York City Council Member Dan Garodnick, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Those supporting say the legislation will allow for all the kinds of activities that take place in Times Square now, but in specific zones. So those who want to take a photo with a costumed character or buy a ticket for a sightseeing tour could still do that while those who don’t would be able to get through the area without the threat of being harassed.
Garodnick posted an artist’s rendering on his Twitter page Wednesday showing what he said was one of eight proposed areas for commercial activity in Times Square.
In another post, Garodnick said the Department of Transportation is proposing purple “flow zones” that allow pedestrians to pass without interference.
The bill comes after scores of complaints in recent years over aggressive panhandling behavior, primarily from the costumed characters pushing onlookers for tips.
At the City Council hearing Wednesday, a police official said there have been 16 arrests this year, compared to 15 arrests in all of last year.
In the most recent incident, a man in a Spider-Man costume was accused of fighting with a tourist over a tip this past weekend, and was arrested on an assault charge.
Other incidents included a Spider-Man allegedly punching a police officer, an Elmo being arrested for allegedly harassing people and yelling anti-Semitic slurs and a “Toy Story” Woody allegedly groping women.
“This is a real issue. We are not saying that all the people who are dressed in costume behave this way, but there is a consistent and ongoing issues that needs to be dealt with,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. “Times Square should be unusual. We say quirky is fine, but creepy is not.”
Costumed characters including Spider-Man, Batman and the Joker were among those in the audience at City Hall Wednesday to protest the legislation.
“I have a right to walk in Times Square dressing like Batman,” one man told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.
“I don’t need to be in a zone, I’m not a rabbit,” said a Spider-Man, adding he was wrongfully arrested for assault. “I’m a free man to walk in a public place.”
The union that represents some of the bus tour ticket sellers also is opposed, saying that forcing sellers to remain only in one place would cause them to lose money, and that they were being punished for the actions of a few.
“I don’t see why we should be penalized because of somebody else’s aggression,” said Lenwood McKoy, president of Transport Workers Union Local 225, after the Monday press event, at which union members held up signs that read, “Don’t kill union jobs.”
But others, like Times Square’s famed Naked Cowboy, made his position clear, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“I’m in full support of it,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve been here 16 years, I know all the guys from the Times Square Alliance, they’ve always supported me.”
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)