Times Square Alliance demands changes to pedestrian plazas

Monday, March 28, 2016
Times Square Alliance demands changes to pedestrian plazas
Rob Nelson is live in Times Square with the story

TIMES SQUARE (WABC) -- There is a renewed call for changes in Times Square as another costumed character faces problems with the law.

The Times Square Alliance is demanding changes to the pedestrian plazas, where aggressive costumed characters panhandle for tips.

This past weekend, a man dressed as Spiderman was accused of tangling with a tourist who he says stiffed him on a tip.

The City Council recently introduced new legislation to regulate the 70 pedestrian plazas across the city.

Monday, they began the public relations campaign to get it done; blasting what they say has become commercial chaos.

One Times Square employee wrote, "A friend's son was grabbed by one of the costumed characters to solicit a photo op. The mother was told to give $10 and (the character) would not let go of the child until the money changed hands."

Susan, a Manhattan resident, said, "I have been aggressively approached multiple times by the cd and picture hawkers who don't much like the answer 'no.' it makes it highly unpleasant and time-consuming to walk through the area."

These are just a few samples from a long list of testimonials given out today by city leaders looking to reign in commercial activity in New York's pedestrian plazas.

The new law would give the city's Transportation Department the power to regulate the plazas, including the creation of zones that would be the only areas where commercial activity would be allowed.

It's a move designed to give people the option of avoiding the costumed characters and topless women who have generated so much controversy in recent months.

City Council members and Times Square Alliance leaders surrounded themselves with supporters of the law on Monday, including even "The Naked Cowboy".

Leaders stressed that this not any kind of ban, just an effort to try to better contain the chaos.

There will be a public hearing March 30th. The City Council wants to pass the bill by summer. They don't want to change character of Times Square; they just want it to be quirky, not creepy.

In a recent survey, 61% of Times Square employees reported experiencing a negative encounter with a costumed character or commercial solicitor, with 51% of those respondents saying that interaction made them feel unsafe, the Alliance said.