TRIBECA — City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said the idea of ripping out Times Square pedestrian plazas to deal with the topless women and costumed character panhandlers is still on the table.
"When plazas were first built they didn't come through any sort of public review process whatsoever," said Weisbrod, who is co-chair of a taskforce on how to handle the issue with Police Commissioner William Bratton.
"Under any set of circumstances you just sort of have to look and see how they function, what the issues are in Times Square and come up with a set of recommendations," Weisbrod said after a speech at New York Law School Friday.
Bratton has also floated the idea of ripping out the plazas. Speaking during an interview on 970 AM The Answer Thursday, Bratton said his "personal preference, my professional preference" would be to get rid of the plazas.
The NYPD announced this week the creation of a "Times Square Unit" of 100 officers who will patrol the area using a neighborhood policing model the city is experimenting with. The size of the new unit is double the current amount of officers who patrol the square.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was willing to consider the idea of removing the plazas, but added this week that it was far from a "fait accompli."
"The whole idea of the taskforce, which involves a range of agencies including NYPD and DOT and City Planning, is to make sense of that issue; to decide does it work the way it is exactly; should it be substantially changed?" de Blasio said Thursday during a press conference in Lower Manhattan.
"I don’t offer a snap judgment," he added. "I want this taskforce to analyze that very question and come back with an answer."
Bike and pedestrian advocates and the Times Square Alliance have said ripping out the plazas to deal with the problems in the area is an overreaction.
Weisbrod is credited with engineering Times Square's turn from a crime ridden area with open prostitution, drug sales and X-rated movie theaters to the city's top tourist destination while he was president of the Times Square Business Improvement District.
The unique nature of Times Square is why the taskforce will take a measured approach, Weisbrod added.
"It's a complicated place because it's a center for tourism, the theater industry is there, there are major business there," he said. "How all of these fit together is really unique to this one extraordinary place we have that's known around the world and I think we all want to see it function as best we can."