With tourists, traffic and life returning to the crossroads of the world, New York City is once again trying to rein in those sometimes out-of-control costumed characters — and lawmakers want to make it very clear: Buy something here, walk over there.
City Council earlier in the week passed legislation to toughen regulations on street vendors and performers, with a plan that would create areas inside a “theater district” zone — Between West 40th Street to West 50th Street and from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue — where they can hawk their wares.
The changes were prompted by complaints from vendors and tourists alike. With Times Square back to drawing 300,000 people per day, City Council sought to strengthen the commercial zones established in 2016 in the tourist destination. The legislations from five years ago designated spots for vendors to sell things, and was done in an effort to control the performers.
But it hasn’t done much reining in. As a result, they passed the new legislation that, if signed by the mayor who supports the bill, would mean that anyone selling anything would have to complete the entire transaction in a certain spot.
“What we are trying to do is make sure everything happens in those commercial zones and we are creating very clear pedestrian space for people who are visiting Times Square,” said Councilman Keith Powers. “There will be a specific area where you go. If you are just passing through you have a different place you can walk without being harassed or asked for money.”
Adding to the push for the change are recent Times Square shootings that left innocent tourists injured. In May, a 4-year-old and some adults were shot when two vendors fought. Then in June, a turf spat ended up with Marine seriously hurt from a gunshot wound.
“I think those high profile shootings in Times Square have added a level of urgency of making more sense of it,” Powers said, adding that the changes will likely be seen sometime in late October.
The Times Square Alliance plans to make changes too, as they plan on adding regular meetings with vendors and posting signs to let tourists know the characters want to get paid for photos. That comes as a result of vendors seeking a better understanding of the rules as well.
“We are committed to work with the designated actors in Times Square and create a working group that respects the rights of all,” the group’s president said.