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Times Square Task Force: Pedestrian Plaza Will Stay; Zone For Solicitors Suggested

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A partial agreement was reached Thursday on what to do about quality of life issues in Times Square, as a task force created by Mayor Bill de Blasio on those issues met for the first time.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the pedestrian mall will stay in place. But a solution for problems involving costumed characters and painted, topless women remains in limbo.

The deadline for solving the Times Square problem is fast approaching, but police Commissioner Bill Bratton refused to be painted into a corner about what to do about what are widely considered disruptive elements. The costumed characters and the women who decorate their bare chests with vibrant designs are soliciting tips from crowds of people.

"I think we need to put in place time, place and manner restrictions, which will create zones – and zones that have cartoon characters and painted ladies, and CD sellers and hop-on, hop-off bus people," said City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-3rd). "But you shouldn't be harangued and harassed walking through Times Square."

The proposal, called "Roadmap for a 21st Century Times Square," suggests breaking up the area into three zones that together would make the "Times Square Commons." One zone would be for unimpeded pedestrian traffic, a second for special events, and a third for what they called "protected solicitation'" – that is, the costumed characters and topless desnudas.

"There should be a zone for commercial activity, there should be a zone for the general public where no commercial activity will take place, and there should be another zone that allows for performance type work," Johnson told 1010 WINS.

Mayor De Blasio Convenes First Meeting Of Times Square Task Force

Bratton told 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa he has already had discussions with the Planning Commission and the Times Square Alliance ahead of the meeting.

"What we have here is a quality of life problem that has to be addressed," de Blasio told WCBS 880. "I'm sure you remember the really bad old days in Times Square, we've come a long, long way and we're never going back to those bad old days."

Kramer asked Bratton what he thought of the idea of having zones for the solicitors.

"I'm going to have to give some thought to that, because in the sense of, would it make it easier patrol? Certainly, but would it, in fact, work?" Bratton said. "That's one of the issues that will require a little more thought."

Bratton, the co-chairman of the task force, originally said he wanted to dig up the pedestrian mall and return cars to Times Square. But on Thursday, the task force said that will not happen.

"The major thing that everyone agreed on is that the Times Square plazas should go forward and be completed," said Planning Commission Chairman and task force co-chair Carl Weisbrod.

There will also be more police officers in Times Square, and, Bratton said, "a lot more cameras and highp-definition cameras."

the A new squad of 100 police officers is being trained for challenges specific to Times Square. They should be on the job by next month.

"Look some of the folks, the costumed characters for example, they're basically a business and they should be regulated as business," de Blasio said. "And that's how we're going to proceed obviously while respecting constitutional rights."

De Blasio also spoke in support of the idea of splitting Times Square into zones..

"I think it's a great idea if we can figure out how to do it to demarcate specific zones for specific activity, but that's the kind of thing the task force will look at and decide if it's viable," de Blasio said. "All of those pieces will be blended together into a plan this month and I think it'll make the situation there a lot more positive for everyone."

The coalition's proposal also calls for the completion of a congestion study, and to sustain and support the new NYPD Times Square Unit.

"Times Square is a chaotic, quirky place and we are OK with that, but we want to ensure that folks are not hassled or harassed as they try to get through the Crossroads of the World," Johnson said.

But it will take until the end of next year to finish the still-incomplete pedestrian plazas in the first place, so any questions of redesign will have to wait until then.

The final plan is expected to be announced on Oct. 1 at City Hall.

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