Amid Complaints About Times Square, Police Announce New Unit

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EXCLUSIVE: Aggressive panhandling costumed characters spread from Times Square to the Battery, Coney Island, sparking turf war.

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department is creating a new unit to patrol Times Square amid growing complaints over panhandling costumed characters and topless women. Naturalists, feminists and members of an atheistic UFO religion believe it’s only a matter of time until they win women across the country the right to go topless on public beaches and other places where men are allowed to bare their chests.The NYPD announced it was seeking volunteers to serve in Manhattan South’s “newly formed Times Square unit,” according to an internal message obtained Wednesday by The Daily News.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With police cracking down on topless women in Times Square, some costumed characters decided to expand their operations and move downtown. Chief of Department James O’Neill said Wednesday officials will recruit 50 additional officers to the Crossroads of the World, bringing the number there to 100 by this fall. The department is seeking applications from officers to join the patrol, which will be known as the Times Square Unit, according to a memo sent to all police commands on Tuesday. A turf war erupted between costumed characters in the Battery Park area, resulting in a fist fight between Minnie Mouse and the Statue of Liberty, 1010 WINS’ John Montone reported. The officers who join the unit will patrol on foot, according to the memo, and will “be expected to build relationships with members of the local business community” and with security personnel “from the numerous hotels, restaurants, theaters and retail locations in the area.” The creation of the unit comes amid a debate over how to handle the growing number of topless women, known as desnudas, who wear body paint and solicit tips.

The revelation came a day after The News reported that the costumed hustlers were now hassling people in other tourist-rich parts of the city like the Battery, Columbus Circle and Coney Island. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, a co-chair on the task force, has already voiced his support for doing away with the plazas, which he says create a gathering spot that breeds problematic behavior. A GoTopless activist currently is fighting in federal court against Chicago’s topless ban, arguing it’s a constitutional right for women, and the group supports local council efforts to allow toplessness in Venice Beach, California.

Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested last week that one solution could involve the removal of the pedestrian plazas where the women, and many people dressed as cartoon characters or superheroes, pose for photos and ask for a tip in return. When I was in college, I took an intro art class—you know, one of those classes to fulfill a requirement—and there may have been a nude model who came in one week, she may have been named Rhonda, I can’t honestly remember, and she may have had curly auburn hair—but the point is, I did not complain. Meanwhile, City Councilman Mark Treyger says Times Square is not the only place where costumed characters are aggressively hustling locals and tourists.

He said the same thing is happening on Coney Island. “If one parent requests a photograph with one of the characters with their children, the other characters jump into the photograph and begin demanding money,” Treyger, a Democrat whose district includes Coney Island, told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said the idea for a second task force came together late last week, after he and other elected officials expressed concerns to Mr. de Blasio that the panhandlers had spread to Coney Island. That has kept the panhandlers out of Father Duffy Square at the north end of Times Square, but it hasn’t kept them from infesting the Battery, which is also a city park, Burke said. “Everyone is empathetic, everyone recognizes the problem, everyone agrees that it’s illegal, everyone agrees that it’s not a positive experience for the visitor,” he said. “But no one is willing to come up with the enforcement.” Treyger said the Coney Island Boardwalk is also parkland and that hasn’t kept the panhandlers out.

Supreme Court, though he does believe it’s a clear matter of constitutional rights being quashed – both on First Amendment speech and 14th Amendment equal protection grounds. “What we hope to do is enforce the Constitution,” he says. “It was speech. She wasn’t just interested in nude sunbathing, she was making the point Chicago has a stupid ordinance that should be changed.” Though social attitudes likely are softening to some degree, the pro-topless movement in the United States currently lacks the well-funded and well-organized advocacy organizations of other lobbies, such as those in favor of gay rights and marijuana legalization.

Walzak said the administration would be “engaging a working group of officials and stakeholders from areas with high levels of tourism” to make sure the issue was addressed from a citywide perspective. Another group, the Topfree Equal Rights Association, assists women in Canada and the U.S. who face difficulties going topless in public, but exists in a state of semi-dormancy. A longtime adviser to TERA, Judy Williams, 72, says that on warm days in Vancouver, Canada, she enjoys driving without a shirt, and she believes the movement’s on a trajectory for ultimate success, even with road bumps. “What the hell difference does it make if they’re down to my navel? You’ve got terrifying, giant cartoon characters out of some acid trip wandering around, panhandlers by the dozen, swerving bikers, those goddamn hipsters on those goddamn hoverboards—all in this disgusting mélange.

City Councilman Andy King, the sponsor of a bill that would require costumed characters to be licensed in New York City, said he planned to amend the legislation to address toplessness. Our breasts are for nurturing children, they are not sex objects,” says Williams, who has participated in topless protests in public parks but avoids events organized by Raelian-associated groups because of their beliefs. Times Square does not pass the Nana Test, which I like to use for most matters in my life: Would this place, or course of action, or e-mail I’m about to send make my Grandma Wilhelm proud?

If not: it’s garbage, as garbage as the take-out chicken parmesan I once served her that she threw in the trash after one bite (“This isn’t homemade, William. And he said legal concerns about his bill, which he said has 21 supporters in the 51-member City Council, were overblown. “I do not think we’re violating any constitutional laws,” he said. “There are all these people saying, ‘Well let’s be free nilly. Esco says her top priority is raising awareness about the issue and rallying support around the country, and she hopes to hire a full-time campaign manager in the near future. The truth is, everyone’s so quick to rail on ole de Blasio—it’s the only thing cooler than e-cigarettes now, apparently—that they’re jumping on my back about this, even though I know, deep down, they all agree with me—deep down, they avoid Times Square like it’s a phone call from an unknown number.

She said that while she had heard the topless woman had been there as well, “half naked people on the boardwalk isn’t so rare in the summer.” But Ms. As a city task force considers how to deal with painted women, a New York state senator, Democrat Ruben Diaz – an evangelical minister who previously sought to legislate mandatory parenting classes – has proposed banning both men and women from going topless, with an exception for beaches. In New Jersey, a 1936 mass demonstration of 42 topless men on the beach of Atlantic City, New Jersey, resulted in $2 fines. “We’ll have no gorillas on our beach!” the city leaders reportedly declared.

But I couldn’t help myself last night and I texted him: “just remember: don’t be anyone other than Dante!” And he wrote back: “I would never dream of it.” (I’m telling you, the kid’s a philosopher.) And this morning I reread his text and felt more sure than ever: I’ll be the most unpopular mayor of all time, I’ll drive the Post into a full-on epileptic fit, I don’t care, I’m going to make this wasteland of a city into a place Nana would be proud of. Though seemingly natural allies, topless rights groups and breastfeeding-in-public advocates don’t have much common ground, and many state laws allowing breastfeeding do so explicitly without extending broader rights. “I am asked this question fairly often and the two issues are unrelated, both legally and socially,” says attorney J. Kathleen Marcus, who operates the website “It is the suckling that people are most bothered by in the breastfeeding context,” she says, “and not the exposed breast. The political movements don’t even acknowledge each other and represent very different populations.” The GoTopless leader believes the U.S. is trending toward more liberal policies. “Little by little this is going to wear down.

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