NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Times Square Alliance and elected officials are calling for an end to harassment by costumed characters and topless painted ladies in Times Square.
A rally Monday morning pushed for a City Council bill that would regulate pedestrian plazas by limiting where characters can solicit business, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
“If I have to lose some of my own little freedom to run around, so be it. I think it’ll increase the quality of the performers,” said Robert John Burck — better known as the Naked Cowboy, a longtime fixture in Times Square.
“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, the head of the Times Square Alliance. “Times Square should be unusual. We say quirky is fine, but creepy is not.”
Complaints over aggressive costumed characters, panhandling and displays that are less than family friendly spurred the city to create a Times Square Task Force, focused on reducing what the de Blasio administration called “nuisance quality of life issues.”
According to the Alliance, the non-profit that works to improve and promote Times Square, 61 percent of Times Square employees reported having a negative encounter with the characters while 51 percent of those people say the interaction made them feel unsafe.
“Costumed characters will not be banned. It’s simply allowing this commercial activity to be regulated,” Thompson said.
The most recent incident happened Saturday after a Spider-Man posed with children for a picture. When their mother said she needed to get small bills to tip him, police said he kicked her.
Late last month, a man dressed in a Batman costume was accused of stealing $50 from a tourist.
In June, two women dressed as Minnie Mouse and Hello Kitty were arrested on assault charges after the two allegedly got into a fight over how to split tips they had made.
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.
Supporters say the proposal will at least give people walking through the area the option of avoiding the characters and painted ladies all together.
“When there are multiple zones, you can have more signage that makes it clear that as you approach and have your picture taken, then, yes, you’ll be expected to give a tip,” Tompkins said.
While many support the proposed regulations, ticket sellers who hawk bus rides, Broadway shows and comedy clubs fear they could put them out of business.
“This is Times Square… we’re not asking to go to Bethesda Fountain in Central Park and sell tickets,” James Muessig, of the Transport Workers Union, told CBS2.
If the bill is passed, the Department of Transportation would manage and regulate the pedestrian plazas. A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Wednesday.