Times Square Coalition: Keep the Plazas, Regulate Naked People

Image: Times Square Alliance
Image: Times Square Alliance

The Times Square Alliance and a coalition of electeds has a plan to address complaints about Times Square without destroying the hugely successful pedestrian plazas.

The centerpiece of the proposal is to legally redefine the Broadway plazas as a public space with three regulated zones: “civic” zones for public seating areas and programmed events; “flow” zones for pedestrian throughput; and “designated activity” zones for costumed characters, desnudas, and other people hustling for cash.

A second component of the proposal is a study to evaluate vehicular and pedestrian conflicts, safety issues on 42nd Street, and the effect of tour bus traffic. And a third aspect is the creation of a new NYPD Times Square unit, comprised of officers specially trained “on the nuanced forms of intimidation by solicitors [and] the complex legal issues related to enforcement,” which would direct all civil citations to Midtown Community Court, rather than 100 Centre Street. In addition to Times Square, the coalition wants to establish rules intended to keep 42nd Street sidewalks from getting obstructed during peak hours.

The proposal has the backing of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, local City Council members Dan Garodnick and Corey Johnson, Community Board 5, and a number of business and real estate interests, including Rudin Management Company and the Durst Organization. It will be presented to Mayor de Blasio’s Times Square task force, which was scheduled to hold its first meeting today.

The mayor announced the task force almost a month ago and set a deadline of October 1 for the group to come up with a plan. In the meantime, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Times Square should be turned back over to cars. He later said his call to rip out the pedestrian plazas was meant to “smoke out” their supporters.

Bratton and City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod are co-chairs of the task force.

While the map might look heavyhanded, the coalition is proposing a lighter and more nuanced touch than the other regulatory proposal that’s been bandied around: turning the plazas into parkland. Putting Times Square under the purview of the Parks Department could lead to time-of-day restrictions and other limits on activity that this approach avoids. Authors of the Times Square proposal say it could be a model for other plazas.

“Times Square should be a place of freedom of expression, freedom of movement and creativity, without being a free-for-all,” said Alliance president Tim Tompkins in a press release. “The community’s proposal creates a constitutional and data-driven framework for rationally regulating one of the world’s great public spaces … While this proposal is unique to Times Square, it provides an important template and toolkit for addressing the issues of plazas citywide.”

  • Alexander Vucelic

    ” In addition to Times Square, the coalition wants to establish rules intended to keep 42nd Street sidewalks from getting obstructed during peak hours.”

    widen the sidewalks

  • BBnet3000

    Yep. The city narrowed the sidewalk significantly decades ago and has spent the intervening time upzoning for more and more offices. Now they are talking about making them less public in order to get people to “move along” rather than prioritizing the space efficiency of transportation like they should.

  • Bobberooni

    So… where will bikes go in this propsal?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the obvious solution to crowding in Times Square is to open the entire streetspace of Broadway from 33rd to 60th to people.

    It’s curious that our leadership seems utterly baffled by pedestrian zones. Pedestrian Zones have been around for 40 years. Yet, our leadership can’t imagine a city space without cars

  • The sidewalks along 7th should be widened from Penn Station all the way north to Central Park, and this isn’t even a point that should be debated. It’s dangerous to walk around there considering the congestion, and we’ve given over an insane amount of space to cars on that 25 block stretch of road.

  • Jeff

    All the way down to 14th St, really.

  • 8th Avenue, too. Even now that people on foot have taken over the 8th Ave bike lane, there still isn’t enough space to walk. The city needs to widen the sidewalks out to beyond where the bike lane is now, move the bike lane over, and create some bus-only lanes.

    Just shows that without congestion pricing or some other way to limit private car trips, pedestrians, transit riders, and cyclists will only ever be arguing about the scraps.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Jeff,

    maybe a 4 phase opening of Briadway.

    Phase One: 32nd to 49th

    Phase Two; 49th to Central Park

    Phase Three: 32nd to 12th

    Phase Four: 12th to Wall Street

  • Alexander Vucelic

    MoveNY

  • Matthias

    Hear, hear. There are countless streets where sidewalks need to be widened significantly. 7th and 8th Avs are a good start.

  • Jeff

    Not to nitpick, but there’s nothing special about Broadway between 14th and 12th (I would know–I work at 12th and Broadway!). And I must humbly admit that Broadway does seem to serve as a useful thoroughfare below 14th St all the way downtown.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    The Strand Bookstore 🙂

    the most efficient way to eliminate congestion is to open up streets for use by people. Agreed that Broadway below 14th is a busy, crowded street; therefore cars should be banned from that stretch. Cars are the absolutely least effective method of transport & movement. Carrying Capacity of the street would increase a thousand fold if Broadway was fully opened to people; especially below 14th.

  • neroden

    Perfectly reasonable. To be clear, going topless is completely legal 100% of the time in the whole of New York State — this proposed “designated activity” regulation would apply to all costumed characters, and would not apply to ordinary women going about their business topless.

  • neroden

    Further south than that, too. I’d say the sidewalks on 7th and 8th need to be widened at least as far south as 23rd Street.

  • neroden

    14th is where the grid starts, and north of 14th Broadway breaks the grid, meaning it’s really terrible to allow cars on it. South of 14th, Broadway is part of the grid and not as much of a problem.

    From 14th to Houston, *Bowery* breaks the grid (along with Cooper Square and 4th Ave). I don’t suppose we could get Bowery pedestrianized…

    South of Houston, the major source of problems for pedestrian safety is speeding cars coming off of the bridges and tunnels. The tunnel and bridge approaches should be redone in a Complete Streets fashion.

  • Matt

    Won’t stop police for harassing women doing nothing illegal unfortunately.

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