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.”

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