Mickey, Elmo and Olaf are going to become a lot closer this summer.
The City Council on Thursday voted to pass a bill that will give the Department of Transportation the power to corral the tip-generating costumed characters and topless women in Times Square into several zones.
The bill also gives the department the ability to regulate other plazas throughout the city.
“We want to keep the unique atmosphere of plazas like Times Square, which has been a boom for the city,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “But also make sure that our plazas are safe spaces that the entire community can enjoy.”
The bill passed by a vote of 42 to 1, with 5 abstentions. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill and it is expected to go into effect sometime in the summer. But specifics like how big the zones will be, and exactly what the signage inside of them will say is still undecided.
The controversial decision, overseen by a fully-costumed Spider-Man, Batman and his enemy, the Penguin, followed a day after a unanimous vote by the Transportation Committee.
“Most of the Disney characters, they are hard working men and women,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the committee, said before the vote. “For the first time also there will be a sign encouraging tourists to give contribution, donation.”
Council Member Dan Garodnick, who represents several Manhattan neighborhoods, said the bill does not aim to get rid of the costumed characters or topless women, but instead establish rules around the tip-generating business.
“We want people to be able to embrace the edginess and quirkiness of Times Square. That needs to remain,” he said. “If you want to take a photograph with an Elmo, or take a chance on an unknown artist, or saddle up to the naked cowboy, go for it.”
Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said the group is committed to working with everyone involved, including the people who dress as characters, to address future concerns.
“The passage of this bill ensures that the pedestrian plazas not only in Times Square, but also throughout all five boroughs, will be vibrant and successful public spaces,” he said in a statement, adding that Times Square will now benefit from “creating a better environment for those who work in the plazas and those who work in and visit the area.”
But many of the people behind the Olaf, Elsa, or Cookie Monster masks (who looks a bit closer to a blue Elmo than the cookie-guzzling puppet), have said they are worried this will be bad for business, and their success depends on them being able to convince people to participate in a photo-op.
Jose Sobrevilla, 34, makes about $100 per day dressed as Bumblebee from the Transformers and more on the weekends. The Long Island City resident said he will comply with the new order, mostly because he feels he has no choice.
“I don’t agree, but if it’s the only way we can do it, we will do it,” he said. “It’s going to be crazy. When one person comes over to us, everyone will try to get that person.” (With Jason Shaltiel)