TIMES SQUARE — The cadre of costumed characters, topless “desnudas” and ticket sellers who roam Times Square would be restricted to eight rectangular spaces if the city passes a proposed bill to regulate the city's pedestrian plazas.
At a hearing on Wednesday, city Department of Transportation officials presented renderings that show what Times Square’s pedestrian plazas would look like after being sectioned off into “flow zones” and “designated activity zones,” as envisioned by the legislation.
Under the proposed legislation, the DOT would set up eight zones where people engaged in commercial activity — including performers taking photos with tourists for tips and workers selling tour bus and comedy club tickets — would stand.
Street vendors are not included in the commercial activity the legislation targets.
“Flow zones” for pedestrian traffic would wrap around the designated activity zones, marked by white reflective tape and “Walk Only” signs, the renderings show.
The activity zones would measure by 8-by-50 feet and 10-by-50 feet — ”bigger than a city bus” — and would not conflict with benches and other installations in the plazas, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.
Supporters of the legislation — which would allow the DOT to regulate pedestrian plazas throughout the city, not just in Times Square — maintain the zones would improve pedestrian traffic flow in the area, which sees between 300,000 and 400,000 tourists pass through each day, the commissioner said.
The bill would also crack down on the aggressive solicitation and forcible-touching incidents many people have complained about, according to Captain Robert O’Hare, commanding officer for the NYPD’s Times Square unit.
Sixteen “bad characters” have been arrested so far this year for “aggressive solicitation, forcible touching, assaults and grand larcenies,” he said at the hearing — up from 15 arrests in total last year.
But critics argued the legislation could eliminate the jobs of ticket sellers, as well as those of costumed characters who make a living posing for photos with tourists.
Trottenberg said it was not the DOT’s intention to wipe out jobs, adding she felt the zones would be big enough that they would not foster competitive behavior.
The department would employ a process of “trial and error to ensure both sets of zones are working well” and “adjust as needed” if the legislation passes, she said.
The proposed zones could be implemented as early as May or June, preceded by a comment process that would take in the concerns of community boards and the general public, she added.