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'Times Square Commons' Plan Gets Backing From Task Force

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The Times Square pedestrian plazas may not be going away anytime soon, but city officials are still trying to figure out how to deal with the costumed characters and desnudas who are, somehow, the scourge of the neighborhood right now. A group of politicos that includes Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer recently proposed dividing the busiest part of Times Square into separate areas, with spots for the performers, for cultural events, and more. And it looks like the task force appointed by Mayor de Blasio to deal with this "problem" (which includes police commissioner Bill Bratton) is on board: The New York Times reports that they recommended the city limit "when and where topless women and costumed characters can approach tourists for tips."

The task force met on Wednesday to discuss the different plans put forth for Times Square's pedestrian plazas, and agreed that the best plan is to refurbish the plaza, rather than ripping them up entirely. The plan put forth by Brewer and City Council members Corey Johnson and Daniel Garodnick calls for creating what they called "Times Square Commons," a pedestrian-only chunk of land between 42nd and 47th Streets that's divided into three areas with different purposes (seating, walkways, and "any activity involving the immediate exchange of money for goods, services or entertainment").

But there's one issue with the plan: whether or not it's constitutional. The giant Elmos and topless women may be protected by the First Amendment or by local and state laws, making restriction of their activities a big no-no. Carl Weisbrod, who's the co-chair of the task force, said "exactly where constitutional activity can take place and how it takes place is what we're going to figure out," according to Politico New York.

Another problem is the fact that the Department of Transportation currently has control of the pedestrian plazas; according to a report obtained by the Times, the task force wants to give the DOT the ability to make "rules to manage commercial and civic activities in pedestrian plazas." But all of this is a ways off: Work on the plazas is still happening, and any changes may not be implemented for at least another year.
· Limits Put Forth for Topless Performers in Times Square [New York Times]
· Task force embraces idea of restricted zones for Times Square [Politico New York]
· Officials Propose 'Times Square Commons' Plan for Ped Plazas [Curbed]
· All Times Square Coverage [Curbed]