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Topless Women and Pedestrian Plazas Will Stay in Times Square

By Jeff Mays | October 1, 2015 10:19am | Updated on October 1, 2015 2:28pm
 A man prepares to tip a semi-nude model after posing for a picture in Times Square on Aug. 18, 2015. A task force appointed by the mayor agreed to the idea of assigning designated areas for topless women.
A man prepares to tip a semi-nude model after posing for a picture in Times Square on Aug. 18, 2015. A task force appointed by the mayor agreed to the idea of assigning designated areas for topless women.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

CITY HALL — Both the pedestrian plazas and topless ladies of Times Square aren't going anywhere. 

A task force appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to the idea of designated areas for the women and costumed characters to solicit tips from tourists, but the details have yet to be worked out.

On the John Gambling show on Thursday, the mayor called the idea of sanctioning off the Times Square area "a very strong recommendation," adding the plan was still being finalized. 

De Blasio then added that Times Square performers, such as the costume characters and the "desnudas", should be considered as businesses and therefore conform to city regulations and pay taxes. 

"The goal is that, if it’s a business, it’s a business, and it should be treated like any other business," he said.

De Blasio appointed the task force, which examined a series of recommendations from a panel of elected officials and Times Square area business leaders, after heavy media coverage of aggressive panhandling by the topless women and costumed characters.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton floated the idea of removing the plazas, which de Blasio said he was willing to explore. The mayor said he recognized the right of the topless women to be there but he felt their nudity and actions were inappropriate for the city's top tourist destination.

"I think it’s wrong. It’s wrong," de Blasio said about the women in August.

Neither being topless or panhandling is illegal in New York City.

City Councilman Corey Johnson, who represents a portion of Times Square and helped to draft the report, said it's unclear whether there will be zones for the ladies to work or whether there will be a medallion painted on the ground that designates where performers can stand.

"The devil is really in the details," said Johnson who said the ruling will jibe with the rights of the topless women, costumed characters and CD sellers.

In keeping the plazas, Johnson said he expects legislative action to allow the Department of Transportation to impose regulations.

Currently, the plazas are still designated as city streets. The change would give DOT the power to make rules governing not just Times Square, but all 70 pedestrian plazas throughout the city, said Johnson.

In order to bring some order to the area, there's also discussion of eliminating vending on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. That would also require City Council legislation.

Other changes include endorsing an increased police presence in the area. The NYPD is already recruiting 100 officers to be part of a dedicated "Times Square Unit."

The officers will use the city's new neighborhood policing model and be assigned solely to Times Square so they could get to know the vendors, local businesses and security personnel in the area.

Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, and Robert Kafin, chairman of the Times Square Alliance, praised the plan.

"We are pleased that the administration has endorsed and supported the key elements of the community's plan, and we look forward to working with them and our elected officials to hammer out the specifics of implementation so that Times Square can continue to be the economic and job growth engine that it has been in recent years," the pair said in a statement.

Johnson agreed that there was more work to be done.

"I feel grateful that City Hall adopted the set of recommendations we put forward but this is the beginning of the work," said Johnson. "We have to execute the details of this plan and that's what really matters."