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Council Committee Votes Unanimously for Times Square Pedestrian Plaza Bill

By Maya Rajamani | April 6, 2016 12:07pm
 A draft artist's rendering of the designated activity zones and flow zones proposed for Times Square's pedestrian plazas.
A draft artist's rendering of the designated activity zones and flow zones proposed for Times Square's pedestrian plazas.
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NYC Department of Transportation

CITY HALL — The City Council’s Transportation Committee unanimously passed a bill that would restrict Times Square’s costumed characters, desnudas and ticket sellers to designated zones within pedestrian plazas — a day after its chairman walked through the plazas to meet with those the legislation would affect.

The committee, chaired by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, passed the bill, which aims to create “designated activity zones” and “flow zones” for commercial activity and pedestrian traffic, respectively, in Times Square’s pedestrian plazas by a 10-0 vote.

Prior to the vote, Rodriguez acknowledged the bill has “stirred some controversy.”

“I want to be clear that this bill and the steps the [Department of Transportation] has presented are not in any way targeting a particular group or groups of individuals, as we understand and respect the right of those known as costumed characters and desnudas to earn a living,” he said.

“The bill we will vote on today seeks to better solidify the place of plazas in our city, making them an official public space, similar to our parks and beaches,” Rodriguez added.

The legislation would allow the DOT to set rules regulating activity within areas it designates as pedestrian plazas throughout the city and not just in Times Square, he noted.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez and Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins — one of the bill’s most vocal supporters — walked through Times Square to speak with performers the bill would affect.

Several costumed characters have expressed concerns about the size of the proposed activity zones, as well as their ability to make money in zones sectioned off from tourist walkways.

After the vote, Tompkins said the city and DOT had “an obligation to be receptive to their concerns.”

“Change can be a little bit scary, but we should check in once every three months with the characters after the system is put in place to say, ‘How’s it going? Does it need to be adjusted?’” he said.

The full City Council is set to vote on the legislation Thursday afternoon. Then it will need to be signed by the Mayor before it becomes law.