Times Square Photo: David Phan/Flickr

Any New Yorker who has been within one mile of Times Square knows that it’s a circus to be avoided at all costs. The buskers, slow-moving tourists, and the Naked Cowboy are bad enough, but the new addition of the painted ladies has caused quite an uproar.

Several women have been dressing in skimpy patriotic garb, topless except for red, white and blue body paint. They work like the costumed characters, posing for photos in exchange for tips.

This new — ahem — development has caused Mayor de Blasio to put his foot down. He announced a new City Task Force to address the aggressive hustling in Times Square, which is now considering the removal of the square’s popular pedestrian plaza.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the experience of Times Square has been tarnished by the naked women and other harassing characters. He vows that the City will be vigorous in its attempts to control them.

To be clear, de Blasio has not exactly called for the removal of the plaza, but he is open to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s suggestion of returning the plaza back to its former state. The plaza was created in 2009 by Mayor Bloomberg to ease traffic issues and promote tourism and commerce. 

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Comptroller Scott Stringer side with Bloomberg’s vision. They support keeping the plaza, but they agree that the mayor has ultimate oversight over the issue.

Others, like Tim Hopkins, the president of Times Square Alliance, are not as reserved with their opinions. Hopkins lambasted the possibility of removing the pedestrian plaza as a defeatist decision.

“Sure, let’s tear up Broadway. We can’t govern, manage, or police our public space, so we should just tear them up. That’s not a solution. It’s a surrender,” he said

Whether the plaza stays or goes, many community officials agree that problems need to be addressed. The Empire State Development Board, which will serve on the Task Force, advocates for a family-friendly Times Square. Its memo affirmed that activities that disrupt family visits have the potential to disrupt the entire Times Square neighborhood and its economy.

The Broadway League will also participate in the task force, noting that they are grateful for de Blasio’s initiative. Charlotte St. Martin, President of The League, said that they hope to help preserve Times Square as one of the most visited attractions in the world.

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