CITY HALL — A small group of costumed characters confronted Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez outside the City Hall chambers after the Council passed a bill that will allow the city to restrict their activity to designated zones in Times Square.
Rodriguez — who was one of 42 council members to vote in favor of a bill that will allow the city’s Department of Transportation to regulate pedestrian plazas throughout the city — listened as Spider-Man impersonator Abdel Amine Elkhezzani, 37, and Batman impersonator Jose Escalona-Martinez, 42, voiced their displeasure with the outcome of the vote on Thursday afternoon.
The Joker impersonator Keith Albahae, 49, accompanied them.
“I’m not going to be in those boxes,” Elkhezzani said to Rodriguez. “I don’t want to be mixed with [the other] Spider-Mans.”
With the passage of the legislation, the DOT will work to designate “flow zones” for pedestrian traffic and eight 8-by-50 foot to 10-by-50 foot “designated activity zones” for commercial activity — including costumed characters taking photos for tips — throughout Times Square’s pedestrian plazas.
Escalona-Martinez said he planned to disregard any zones set up for the costumed characters.
“As soon as they say, ‘They can’t walk,’ watch me walking,” he said. “Ydanis, can you imagine somebody telling you that you cannot wear a suit over here?”
“I am suing the city. Nobody, nobody will stop my right,” he added.
The sole vote in opposition to the bill on Thursday came from Councilman Robert Cornegy.
“I feel strongly that we should not regulate or police any New Yorker out of harmless activity they rely on to keep money in their pockets and put food on the table,” Cornegy said. “And that includes posing in costume and performing for tips in the transit system.
Five Council members abstained from voting on the legislation, including Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who said that handing the reins to DOT was “extremely concerning to [him].”
“We have all seen community concerns fall to deaf ears… as agencies make decisions,” he said.
Keeping costumed characters “corralled” within the zones could “lead to unintended consequences and… justify DOT removing [them] altogether,” he added.
Councilman Carlos Menchaca, meanwhile, pointed out that many of the people who would be affected by the bill’s passage were immigrants who needed better access to literacy opportunities. But he ultimately voted in favor of the legislation.
Following the vote, Rodriguez told DNAinfo he believed DOT oversight would make Times Square’s plazas “better for everyone” — including costumed characters and performers.
“I’m confident this vote is the best thing that we have ever done when it comes to taking our plazas… to another level,” Rodriguez said.
The councilman addressed Elkhezzani privately, but could be heard assuring him the city would place signs near any designated zones set up to ensure people knew that the costumed characters worked for tips.
Elkhezzani remained unconvinced by their discussion.
During their conversation, he said, Rodriguez had asked for his input on the proposed zones, to find out how they thought they could work best.
“He was basically telling me, ‘What type of rope should I use to tie your hands?’” Elkhezzani said.
He maintained he would continue to “walk freely” in Times Square.
“And it will be in every newspaper, and every channel, showing that the United States of America, they want to pass these kinds of rules to [take] our freedom,” he said.