Typically, Elmos don’t come to Times Square to make friends. They do it to make money. A bill passed by the New York City counsel on Thursday could hurt Times Square performers’ chances of doing either. That includes some 300 topless women, the ticket vendors, and the costumed characters.
The bill will significantly restrict the areas in and around Times Square where performers can conduct their business. The bill was proposed in the midst of scattered allegations that performers had harassed tourists and locals, and, in a few instances, acted violently. Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed support for the bill in the past, but has not yet said whether he will sign it into law. The new rule, if passed, will be implemented this summer.
The Department of Transportation presented plans detailing restrictions to the Times Square plazas at a hearing last Wednesday. Under this blueprint, performers would be restricted to eight “activity zones.”
Several performers who work in Time Square said at the hearing that the new law will hamper their ability to do business and violates their First Amendment rights.
Captain Robert O’Hare, an NYPD commanding officer said at the hearing that sixteen performers have been arrested so far this year for, “aggressive solicitation, forcible touching, assaults and grand larcenies.” The NYPD arrested fifteen performers the previous year.
In October the NYPD doubled the number of police officers patrolling Times Square to more than 100. The new officers were deployed to address “quality-of-life” issues after the city government flipped out over the presence of topless women in Times Square.
A local business association called the Times Square Alliance were involved in drafting the new piece of legislation. The president of the association, Tim Tompkins, said at the hearing last Wednesday, “Times Square is the image maker and the economic driver of New York City, and there are billions and billions of negative impressions because lots of people are having negative experiences.”
Keep in mind he’s talking about a bunch of cartoon characters, beloved by children and those who are children at heart.