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Designated Zones Open in Times Square, As Superheroes Ready a Legal Battle

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Emily Weidenhof, the DOT’s acting director of public space, Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins, Edward Pincar, the DOT’s Manhattan deputy borough commissioner, and Captain Robert O’Hare, the NYPD’s Times Square unit commanding officer, at Duffy Square, between 46th and 47th Streets, on June 9. | JACKSON CHEN

BY JACKSON CHEN | The Department of Transportation has begun the process of painting in defined zones within Times Square’s pedestrian plaza, leaving portions of the sidewalks and many of their tip-seeking habitués more than a little blue.

During the nighttime hours of June 8, DOT workers completed four “Designated Activity Zones” — eight-foot by 50-foot spaces painted “Techno Teal” to contain any commercial activities, such as costumed characters or desnudas posing for photos with tourists  — along Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

According to DOT’s Manhattan deputy borough commissioner, Edward Pincar, the agency, with an assist from its 10-member street ambassador team of English and Spanish speakers, will implement the remaining four DAZs beginning on June 13.

Abdelamine el-Khezzani removes his Spider-Man mask to appear before the City Council’s Transportation Committee hearing earlier this year. | JACKSON CHEN
Abdelamine El-Khezzani removes his Spider-Man mask to appear before a City Council Transportation Committee hearing earlier this year. | JACKSON CHEN

As for police enforcement, any costumed characters, ticket sellers, or desnudas who solicit money or sales outside the teal-painted areas will receive a ticket starting June 21.

Captain Robert O’Hare, the NYPD’s Times Square unit commanding officer, said violators would typically be charged with a civil offense, but could also be liable to criminal charges and arrest based on their conduct and pattern of violations.

Arrest, O’Hare emphasized, would be a last resort. He voiced hope that the NYPD will get compliance from the area’s tip seekers.

Outside the slim DAZs, a majority of the Times Square pedestrian plaza will be labeled with signs and white-painted tape as “Pedestrian Flow Zones” for passersby or locals who want a clear path for easy passage through the hectic area.

The DOT said the remaining areas that are neither DAZs nor flow zones will be general use areas, or, as the Times Square Alliance dubs them, “chill zones.” While DOT is laying down the paint, the Alliance will be responsible for maintenance, according to Scott Gastel, a DOT spokesperson.

The City Council voted to give DOT the authority to revamp the Times Square plaza – as well as the city’s 72 other pedestrian plazas – on April 7. The agency has created regulations and will monitor them going forward and make adjustments if needed.

Some outspoken costumed characters who make a living through the tips of photo-seeking tourists were vehemently against the new laws and – not surprisingly – they remain staunch in their opposition.

One of the “Techno Teal”-painted DAZs, at 46th Street and Broadway, with the installation barriers and yellow take not yet removed. | JACKSON CHEN
One of the “Techno Teal”-painted DAZs, at 46th Street and Broadway, with the installation barriers and yellow tape not yet removed. | JACKSON CHEN

Abdelamine El-Khezzani, who frequents the Crossroads of the World as Spider-Man, said he and his fellow superheroes plan to wait until the zones are fully installed and enforcement begins before taking steps to challenge the new regulations.

“We have to show the government this idea is disallowing us to make a living,” El-Khezzani said. “They’re going to be surrounding us with signs they’re going to design. We are not going to be making a living in these zones.”

Spider-Man and other costumed characters, like the Dark Knight aka José Escalona-Martinez, said they’re expecting to receive tickets or face arrest due to their disobedience as soon as June 21. Once they do, they’re planning to fight back through legal channels, with their attorney making the argument that their constitutional rights are being violated.

“We just wait to see how this is going to go,” El-Khezanni said. “Once they start giving us trouble, then we’re going to sue them.”

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