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Limits recommended for Times Square hustlers by mayoral task force

Costumed characters work the crowd in Times Square

Costumed characters work the crowd in Times Square in Manhattan on Sept. 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

A mayoral task force is recommending limits on where and when hustlers such as topless women, costumed characters and CD hawkers can solicit in Times Square and other zones with pedestrian plazas.

Over the next few months, the de Blasio administration and City Council are expected to pursue legislation to control the "time, place and manner" of such activity -- adopting language from a 1941 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the government to regulate speech, provided the rules have no bias based on content.

City planning chief Carl Weisbrod told reporters Wednesday, "We do anticipate . . . restricted areas of some sort" involving "a set of rules here that make it much easier . . . to enforce."

Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick (D-Manhattan) said the rules would explore regulating behavior not only in Times Square but also in the city's 70 or so other pedestrian plazas.

"There's too much chaos," Garodnick said of Times Square now.

The two were among about 50 officials at a City Hall meeting of Mayor Bill de Blasio's task force. Several of the officials noted the city would need to impose restrictions consistent with First Amendment free-speech rights.

Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said, "It needs to be content-neutral and we have to consider not just costumed characters and topless painted women, but CD sellers, bus ticket sellers, everyone who is currently using these plazas for commercial activity."

A proposal by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to rip out Times Square's pedestrian plazas is off the table for now. The city will review pedestrian and vehicular traffic there after roadway construction is completed, expected next year.

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