The City Council has given a thumbs up to a bill that looks to give one city agency the authority to manage and set rules for pedestrian plazas throughout the city — hoping to create a positive environment for New Yorkers and visitors alike.
City officials voted Thursday afternoon to approve the legislation giving the city’s Department of Transportation control over the public spaces — which in the case of Times Square has recently seen an uptick of costumed character and painted naked woman operating for tips.
The new bill would allow the DOT to set rules for the spaces, including limiting where such solicitors can operate.
Last month, the Times Square Alliance, elected officials and local Times Square employees gathered to emphasize the need for regulation of the pedestrian plazas.
According to a recent survey, the Alliance said, 61 percent of Times Square employees reported experiencing a negative encounter with a costumed character or other commercial solicitor. Out of those employees, 51 percent said they felt unsafe.
The group also released top tweets from various people detailing incidents that involved either verbal abuse or inappropriate touching.
According to ABC7 New York, the City Council’s Transportation Committee voted to approve the legislation on Wednesday and the whole City Council approved the measure the next day.
On Wednesday, ABC7 reported, individuals who work as costumed characters at or near Times Square referred to the regulation as an “apartheid” and said that the only people who are upset are “people who want free pictures.”
However officials said that the legislation is not aimed at taking jobs away but instead removing unnecessary and hostile solicitation.
“The passage of this bill ensures that the pedestrian plazas not only in Times Square, but also throughout all five boroughs, will be vibrant and successful public spaces,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.
He continued by saying the Alliance is committed to working closely with city officials and all those affected – including those working to earn a living at the plazas — to address concerns raised during the process of getting the bill passed.
“By creating a better environment for those who work in the plazas and those who work in and visit the area, Times Square can continue to be the major economic engine it has always been, producing directly or indirectly one-tenth of all jobs in the city according to a 2012 study,” he said.