NYC Council tightens rules on Times Square mascots, vendors

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The City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation Tuesday toughening regulations on street vendors and performers in Times Square, in the Big Apple’s latest bid to reign in out-of-control soliciting at the Crossroads of the World.

Boosters say the legislation would stop the current practice of hawkers and costumed characters wandering outside of the designated zones to solicit tourists and locals — and then bringing them back to the zones to get paid to keep the transaction kosher.

The tougher rules come after a spate of violence in the commercial district, including disputes between vendors that escalated into shootings.

“Times Square is getting busy again and there have been some issues in Times Square competing over space,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), who represents a portion of the tourist destination and the theater district.

“Times Square is getting busy again and there have been some issues in Times Square competing over space,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Lev Radin/Sipa USA

“We’re updating that and working with the Times Square Alliance and making sure it’s clear that there are additional spaces for people to engage in commercial activity, but also places where it’s not appropriate,” he added

The legislation, approved by a vote of 39-2 on Thursday, creates a “Theatre District” zone that covers many of the blocks from 40th to 50th streets, stretching from 6th to 8th Avenues.

It then empowers the Department of Transportation to create designated areas inside of the district zone for performers and vendors to hawk their wares and a separate set of zones where they are banned from soliciting pedestrians.

Street Vendors Times Square
The council approved the legislation by a vote of 39-2.
Daniel Shapiro

Councilmen Fernando Cabrera (D-The Bronx) and Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) were the lone dissenters. Councilman Antonio Reynoso abstained.

The measure now heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desk for his signature or veto.

The zones were first created in 2016 after complaints mounted about desnudas and other performers hassling tourists and residents — and the bill’s primary sponsor described Thursday’s legislation as merely tightening those rules.

Costumed street performers pose with tourists.
The legislation would keep costumed street performers in designated zones.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“We’ve heard complaints about that happening,” said Councilman Keith Powers (D-Manhattan), about the vendors and performers venturing out.

Powers, who represents the portions of Times Square not covered by Johnson’s district, added: “We’re trying to make the zones work as they were initially intended.”

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