Powers’ bill updates existing pedestrian areas to boost public safety and create more space to travel
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2021
New York, NY — The New York City Council today passed Council Member Keith Powers’ legislation to improve the pedestrian experience and strengthen public safety measures in Times Square. As the city prepares to welcome back throngs of tourists, Intro. 1811 will modify pedestrian safety zones within the Theatre District.
Last month, 200,000 pedestrians walked through Times Square—more than a 30 percent increase from two months prior—according to the Times Square Alliance.
“With this legislation, we are making one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions more attractive–and comfortable,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “Today, we are improving the bustling experience in Manhattan’s most famous public plaza by truly establishing pedestrian safety zones as we welcome back New Yorkers and visitors alike.”
The law will enhance the overall experience in Times Square by allowing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement rules regarding public safety concerns, establish pedestrian flow zones, and create an active organization to continuously work together on these issues.
“The Alliance is extremely grateful to Council Member Powers, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson for their support of Intro 1811, which will clarify and strengthen the rules governing commercial activity and increase pedestrian safety in Times Square,” said Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance. “As we look forward to New York’s recovery and the return of the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to Times Square daily, these new rules ensure that visitors, theatergoers, residents and employees have the best possible experience in this iconic neighborhood.”
“We thank Council Member Powers, in sponsoring Intro 1811, for preserving the rights of street vendors to continue their small businesses while simultaneously ensuring a safe experience for all who visit Times Square,” said Matthew Shapiro, Legal Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center.
In recent years, visitors and residents alike have noted an uptick in touching without consent from costume characters in Times Square. According to data from a Times Square Alliance survey, 1 in 2 New Yorkers personally had unpleasant experiences, while 1 in 5 had been touched without consent. This can happen when a character is trying to do business outside of a designated activity zone, throwing a passerby off guard, and making them uncomfortable.
This legislation updates existing regulations to ensure the original intent of the legislation and codify ambiguities about how commercial activity can take place. Currently, the zones dictate where payment for photos with costume characters is exchanged, with the ability for characters to wander outside of bounds to solicit business. This bill would ensure all activity takes place within the appropriate zones, but does not impact workers’ ability to do their job.
These updated zones will create expectations and guardrails for where business transactions can take place, making visitors and New Yorkers feel safer, while improving pedestrian flow. The law goes into effect in 60 days.