Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke favorably Thursday of a proposal to corral the crowds of buskers in Times Square within designated areas, an apparent shift away from an earlier idea to remove the pedestrian plaza.
"I think it's a great idea if we can figure out how to do it -- to demarcate specific zones for specific activity," the mayor said in an interview on WCBS-AM.
Proposed zones for the topless women, known as desnudas, and costumed characters proliferating at the Crossroads of the World were a key part of a "road map" released Thursday by the nonprofit Times Square Alliance and several Manhattan elected officials. The group said it would submit its plan to curb aggressive solicitation to de Blasio's task force on Times Square.
"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 statement.
The mayor's task force met for the first time Thursday before its Oct. 1 deadline to make recommendations for action. Emerging from the closed-door session at City Hall, Police Commissioner William Bratton, a task force co-chairman, said the panel is leaning toward keeping the Bloomberg-era pedestrian plaza -- at least until construction there is finished.
"We'll want to see the plazas completed, and then we have to look and see how they work," Bratton told reporters. "Maybe they have to be tweaked, maybe they have to be redesigned, but we can't make that decision until we have them completed."
The task force's other chairman, Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, said construction on the pedestrian plaza and Seventh Avenue is to last until the end of next year.
The creation of specific zones for tip-seekers is on the table, Bratton said.
The Times Square Alliance's "Roadmap for a 21st Century Times Square" calls for three distinct regulatory zones: civic, for passive use; flow, for pedestrian movement; and designated activity zones, "for constitutionally protected solicitation."
"You shouldn't be harangued or harassed walking through Times Square," City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said.
De Blasio characterized the desnudas, Elmos, fake Buddhist monks and others as a "quality-of-life problem," but insisted Times Square isn't at risk of returning to its violence-plagued "bad old days."
Bratton said the approaching winter may do much to limit the number of barely clothed buskers.
"Oh, I think the weather has the tendency to do some favors for us as we go forward in time," he said. "Either that or they're gonna be very -- how would I say -- very resilient if they're out there in 30-degree weather."