The "Times Square Unit" will be modeled on the city's Neighborhood Policing model now being tested out in four precincts in Manhattan and Queens, sources said. Mayor Bill de Blasio added money to the fiscal year 2016 budget to hire an additional 1,300 police officers for the community policing effort.
The NYPD is now recruiting for the 100-officer unit, which should be in place by October, sources said. The unit will be double the size of the approximately 47-officer unit that patrols the area now.
Police brass are looking for officers with at least three years experience who will work foot patrols in the area of 42nd Street to 49th Street from Seventh Avenue to Broadway.
“The Times Square Unit will be expected to address crime and quality-of-life issues surrounding the city’s number-one tourist destination," read an NYPD memo on the new unit.
Just as with the city's Neighborhood Policing plan, the same officers will be assigned exclusively to the area.
The officers "will be expected to build relationships with members of the local business community" and "with security personnel “from the numerous hotels, restaurants, theaters and retail locations in the area," the memo said.
"Times Square is an important piece of real estate in New York City and we have to pay attention to what is going on there," James O'Neill, the NYPD's chief of department, said in a briefing at One Police Plaza Wednesday.
"There are many issues in Times Square, from costume characters, to CD sellers and painted ladies and we need to address that."
The new unit comes just a week after de Blasio vowed to crack down on the issues in Times Square.
Toplessness and panhandling are legal, but de Blasio said it was "wrong" and inappropriate for women to be topless in one of the city's busiest squares that draws tourist from all over the world.
The aggressive panhandling from the costumed characters and topless women also shouldn't be tolerated and should be regulated like a business, the mayor said.
"I’m not satisfied that we have used every tool in our arsenal yet," de Blasio said last week. "And I don’t like the situation in Times Square and we’re going to address it in a very aggressive manner."
De Blasio created a task force headed by City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to address the problem. Suggestions from the task force are expected in October.
"Mayor de Blasio has directed NYPD to clamp down on the enforcement of existing laws to ensure a high quality of life in New York City. The Times Square Unit is part of but not the only effort to protect the city’s quality of life," said de Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton.
"NYPD also has a special unit of officers who are working alongside social service experts to move the street homeless into supportive housing or medical facilities to obtain the care they need. This unit also arrests the homeless for any and all violations of quality-of-life laws, such as public urination," she added.
Some city residents, such as those who live in and around 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in East Harlem, say the mayor is ignoring the crime-ridden area in favor of focusing on Times Square.
However, some greeted the new police unit with praise.
“Having a seasoned and consistent unit to thoughtfully address quality-of-life issues in Times Square is a great development," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.