(WASHINGTON POST) Emily Badger — Times Square, famously home to street acts of all kinds, has finally attracted a cast of characters this summer that some New Yorkers simply cannot abide. The sprawling tourist mecca in the heart of Manhattan has filled lately withdesnudas, topless but patriotically painted ladies who preen in photos for tips.
Police can’t arrest them or nudge them along. It’s legal in New York to both panhandle and bare all. But nearby businesses — and much of the New York news media — have been railing at the city to do something. And on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has commissioned a City Hall task force to consider the problem, suggested one dramatic solution: Maybe the city should just do away with the Times Square pedestrian plaza that attracts these women and other hustlers in the first place.
It’s time, he said, to give “a fresh look” to the revamped destination, which was converted to great fanfare under the Michael Bloomberg administration from a clogged thoroughfare for cars into a public space for pedestrians. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton was more blunt Thursday speaking to a local news station: “I’d prefer to just dig the whole damn thing up and put it back the way it was.”
Urban planners and pedestrian advocates have balked. The new Times Square is widely considered to be a signature piece of Bloomberg’s legacy, as well as a national model for how to reclaim civic space from cars. De Blasio’s suggestion is a bit like ripping out the National Mall to get rid of mosquitoes, or removing sidewalks simply because that’s where the homeless often sleep.
“Sure, let’s tear up Broadway,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance business group, said in a facetious statement responding to the mayor. “We can’t govern, manage or police our public spaces so we should just tear them up.”