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'Desnudas' Are Back in Times Square as New Bill Aims To Regulate Performers

 Two topless
Two topless "desnudas" work in Times Square during the first hot day of 2016, March 9, 2016.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

NEW YORK CITY — With warm weather come throngs of tourists, as well as the  topless “desnudas” that have sent Times Square into a tizzy.

The resurfacing of the controversial performers comes as City Council members including Dan Garodnick, Corey Johnson and Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow the city’s Department of Transportation to set rules regulating activity in pedestrian plazas throughout the city.

The legislation comes less than a year after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he had formed a task force to determine how to deal with aggressive costumed characters and painted topless women known as “desnudas” who ask tourists and passersby for tips in Times Square.

A number of costumed characters have been arrested in past months for “aggressive begging,” including a Spider-Man accused of holding onto a 13-year-old boy until his parent forked over cash for a photo.

"Costumed characters have taken over Times Square, and the city needs to set some rules governing its pedestrian plazas,” Garodnick said in a statement.

desnudas work in Times Square

“And while we want the unique quirkiness of Times Square to survive, we believe this will help bring some control over the bad actors out there,” he added.

Under the proposed legislation, the DOT would be allowed to designate areas throughout the city as pedestrian plazas, after giving the locations' respective community boards, council members and borough presidents time to comment.

After an area is designated as a pedestrian plaza, the DOT commissioner would have the power to set rules regulating activity within the area, taking into account plaza size, traffic in the area, safety concerns and “aesthetics or special character” of the plaza, the measure stated.

The bill would allow the commissioner to set rules regulating activity within any areas designated as pedestrian plazas, taking into account plaza size, traffic in the area, safety concerns and “aesthetics or special character” of the area.

The DOT would also be able to select “pedestrian plaza partners” for any designated area, helping the agency with daily management, maintenance and programming in the plazas, among other functions.

Any group hoping to hold an event within a plaza would be required to obtain an activity permit issued by the DOT, the proposed legislation stated.

De Blasio had originally mulled the idea of removing pedestrian plazas from Times Square for good, but later scrapped the proposal, saying performers should be considered businesses and be regulated as such.

Back in August, Johnson said he was working on pedestrian plaza-focused legislation with Garodnick and the Times Square Alliance.

“We are grateful to Councilmembers Johnson and Garodnick for introducing this legislation and look forward to working with them and the administration to refine it and get it passed so that Times Square can continue to be an economic engine for all five boroughs of the city," Alliance president Tim Tompkins said in a statement.

The Alliance has called for costumed characters and others working for tips in Times Square, including comedy club and tour bus ticket sellers, to be restricted to "designated activity zones" within the area.

“Right now it’s a no man’s land in Times Square,” Johnson said at the time. “We just need there to be some predictability, and that’s why it makes sense for the city to determine the best location for these type of activities.”

A date for the bill's hearing has not yet been set, a spokeswoman for Garodnick said Wednesday.