There are a lot of nuisances to be found in Times Square, but apparently for Mayor de Blasio, none are as bothersome as the topless women and aggressive Elmos traipsing around the area’s overly lit streets. As the NYDN reports, de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have formed a special task force aimed at ridding the bustling tourist destination of its “jiggly panhandlers.” And the solution at the top of their list is tearing up the pedestrian plazas and letting cars back in.
“My own personal preference, as I’ve looked at all the different options, is to return it to what it once was,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told the Daily News.
“I’d prefer to just dig the whole damn thing up and put it back the way it was,” he told CBS Local.
De Blasio was a little less brash, saying in a meeting Thursday focused on the issue: “That’s a very big endeavor, and like every other option comes with pros and cons. So we’re going to look at what those pros and cons would be. You could argue that those plazas have had some very positive impacts. You could also argue they come with a lot of problems…we’re going to look at what those pros and cons would be.”
Times Square, before and after it was turned into a pedestrian plaza. Via NYC DOT flickr
The move would undo the work of Mayor Bloomberg who pushed hard back in 2011 to make Times Square a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly place. The initiative, which saw the closing of Broadway from West 42nd to West 47th Streets, gave way to quick results. The area recorded both a lower injury rate to pedestrians by motorists and a significant reduction in vehicle-caused pollutants. The closing has been incredibly popular, and as such, critics of the de Blasio’s and Bratton’s new plan have come out furious.
Tim Tompkins, of the Times Square Alliance, is one such opponent. “Sure, let’s tear up Broadway,” he told the News. “We can’t govern, or manage, or police our public places, so we should just tear them up. That’s not a solution, it’s a surrender.”
Other options said to be floating around include designating the plazas as park areas to allow for regulation of the unsavory activities. The task force is also checking into any potential labor law violations between the bare-bottom panhandlers and the managers who get a large cut of their tips. This morning, City Councilman Corey Johnson suggested creating “special zones” for performers where police can easily monitor activity. The idea, which Johnson is working on with Councilman Dan Garodnick, is being modeled after the commercial-activity restrictions already in place in Central Park and Union Square.
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Neighborhoods : Midtown