NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The full New York City Council approved a measure to gain control of the costumed characters and painted ladies in Times Square.
A council committee approved the bill Wednesday. The bill gives the city’s Department of Transportation power to create restricted zones for costumed characters and others looking for tips.
The move comes after numerous complaints from pedestrians about aggressive panhandling, fights over tips and even arrests.
In the most recent incident, a man in a Spider-Man costume was accused of fighting with a tourist over a tip last month 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.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg spoke at a hearing last week.
“Some people are feeling that they’re getting unwanted and aggressive solicitations and we want to find a way to create a space where people can continue to apply their trade and express themselves and perform, but tourists and others walking through the space can do so in a way that they don’t feel they’re being impinged upon,” she said.
But some of the characters have argued they have a constitutional right to be there and earn a living.
“I think it’s stupid,” said Elvis impersonator Steven Clark. “Puts me where I’m standing on the same spot every day.”
Some Times Square ticket sellers are also concerned the legislation could put them out of business if they’re also eventually restricted to certain areas.
“This is Times Square. We’re not asking to go to Bethesda fountain in Central Park and sell tickets,” said James Muessig of the Transport Workers Union Local 225.
Many tourists say they also have the right to walk through the area without being harassed.
If passed and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, officials hope to have the zones in effect by late May or June, but that would be a fast track.
The Department of Transportation hopes to have the zones in place by the summer season.