NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A City Council committee has approved a bill meant to gain control of costumed characters and other panhandlers in Times Square.
The bill would give the Department of Transportation the power to designate pedestrian plazas, and to restrict the characters and so-called “painted ladies” to specific zones. The zones would also include signs to encourage tourists to tip the workers if they choose to take a photo with them, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.
Councilmember Dan Garodnick said the measure is designed to end harassing behavior in Times Square.
“Make sure that there is space for characters of all types to stay but also give New Yorkers and tourists an opportunity to avoid them if that’s their preference,” Garodnick said.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-10th) said the costumed characters are just trying to earn a living and he wants to make sure a substantial amount of space is allocated to them.
The Committee on Transportation voted in favor of the legislation Wednesday.
The full City Council will vote Thursday.
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.
At a City Council hearing last week, 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.
Rodriguez came to Times Square on Tuesday to assure the desnudas – painted topless women – and the costumed characters that his legislation to put them into physical zones will not cost them their jobs.
“For those hundreds of Disney character workers, the message is we are here to work together with them, and they will be able to do fine too,” Rodriguez said.