Costumed superheroes, topless women wearing only paint, street performers and Disney characters are being put in their place in Times Square.
City Department of Transportation crews on Thursday taped off areas of pedestrian plazas and painted sidewalks to mark eight zones where commercial activity, such as soliticing money to have your picture taken with Spider-Man, will be permitted after June 21.
“The conversion of Times Square into a pedestrian plaza has made it a truly amazing, special place – but it has needed ground rules,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Thanks to the hard work of the Times Square Alliance, the administration, and my colleagues Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Corey Johnson, now it will have them.”
For some, posing with the topless women or having their child meet a Disney character is part of the attraction of visitng Times Square. But others have complained that public nudity isn't apprpriate for young children to see, and some of the superheroes and other costumed performers haven't always stayed in character.
Last month, a man known as “the hug guy” was arrested for allegedly punching a tourist after jumping into her picture then demanding she pay him, CBS2 New York reported.
A Spider-Man allegedly attacked a police officer, a "Sesame Street" Elmo was arrested for allegedly harassing people and yelling anti-Semitic slurs and a “Toy Story” Woody was accused of groping women.
“These people are horrible,” Upper West Side resident Daniella Lattes told CBS2. “They attack people, they fight with each other.”
According to a survey by the Times Square Alliance, 61 percent of people working in Times Square reported experiencing a negative encounter with a costumed character or other commercial solicitors. Of those, 51 percent said they felt unsafe.
In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that gave the DOT control over all 53 pedestrian plazas across the city, allowing the agency to set rules for the spaces, including restricting where the solicitors could operate.
Starting Wednesday night and going through the end of the week, the DOT is installing activity and flow zones in Times Square from Broadway to 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th street. The zones will be delineated with painted tape but also feature signs identifying each area.
The Designated Activity Zones — targeted for commercial activities including the costumed and painted solicitors — are painted teal and measure 8 feet by 50 feet. Under the new law, these spaces are meant for any sort of entertainment, performances, vending or posing or taking photos for any form of compensation, donation or tip.
Pedestrian Flow Zones will be solely for people looking to get through the area and create a “safe and continuous movement of pedestrian traffic.”
Starting on Monday, the DOT will have street ambassadors, together with police officers, conducting education and outreach in both English and Spanish. They will distribute fliers with maps indicating the zones and the rules.
NYPD will begin enforcement of the new rules starting June 21 and the DOT will monitor implementation and also determine if any adjustments need to be made.
Before the City Council voted to approve the bill giving the DOT control over the public spaces, costumed characters called the regulation an ”apartheid” against the solicitors and accused the city of taking away their jobs.
According to PIX11 New York, some of the street performers are planning to file a lawsuit against the city.