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NYPD Commissioner William Bratton says vendor ordinances hampering Times Square clean up

New York City Police Dept. Commissioner William Bratton,

New York City Police Dept. Commissioner William Bratton, left, and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John J. Miller appear on Tuesday morning, Sept. 22, 2015. Credit: Twitter / NYPD

Confusing ordinances have hampered NYPD efforts to rid Times Square of topless women and unregulated vendors as part of a broader city push to clean up the tourist hot spot, Police Commissioner William Bratton told Manhattan civic leaders Tuesday.

"You can't figure out the vending laws in the city," Bratton said during a speech at the Grand Hyatt New York in midtown to members of the Association for a Better New York.

The problem is not limited to Times Square, Bratton said.

At Ground Zero, "there is a lot of tourist pitches in the street. Selling tickets . . . it's an issue that is unregulated," he said.

Understanding the web of city ordinances was among many challenges Bratton ticked off to several hundred business leaders, politicians and labor officials Tuesday. He said the NYPD faces an increase the in homeless and a new drug scourge: synthetic marijuana.

The commissioner said his department is adding 2,000 new cops. He reminded the group of a special NYPD unit bolstering Times Square patrols that started in August after topless women, seeking tips in exchange for a photo, became a news media sensation.

A separate effort among business leaders -- The Times Square Task Alliance -- is debating changes to existing city ordinances and laws.

The alliance released a report last week calling for pedestrian "flow zones" and "solicitation zones" for tip-seeking costumed characters and topless women. A final report is expected Oct. 1. Bratton, a member of the alliance, later said he hoped the report will suggest the City Council work with agencies "to bring rhythm and reason'' to vending laws.

He said the increased homeless population and more use of K2 synthetic pot has his attention. The recent breakup of a homeless "encampment on 125th Street in Harlem is "a very significant problem," Bratton said.

The encampment was near two methadone clinics that treat recovering addicts. But also nearby are bodegas where K2 is sold over the counter.

Last week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged 10 men with conspiring to manufacturer the drug, laced with outlawed substances imported from China. City officials have said they have seen a spike in emergency room visits by homeless people after using K2.

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