Times Square may soon be free of topless women and Elmos


If you are a resident of the great city of New York, or if you have had the pleasure of visiting it, it is likely that you will have stepped into that most hellish of hellholes, Times Square. And if you have been to Times Square, say, to see a show, or go to work, or for some other wholly misguided reason, you have probably seen lots of naked bodies, and lots of bodies covered in knock-off Elmo/Hello Kitty/Buzz Lightyear costumes. This particular chapter in 42nd Street history may soon come to a close, thanks to the efforts of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

On Thursday, the mayor announced that he’s putting together a task force to figure out how to rid the area’s pedestrian walkways of panhandling topless women and costume wearers.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate in one of the busiest squares in New York City for women to display themselves that way,” he said.

It’s legal for anyone to be topless and wear furry costumes in New York, so the task force will have to be creative. Unfortunately, that means making the pedestrian plazas into streets again—cars were banished from the square a few years ago—is on the table. This possibility has not been well received. The Associated Press reports:

A spokesman for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, normally a reliable de Blasio ally, said she “believes in and supports pedestrian plazas.” Comptroller Scott Stringer called the idea “a serious overreaction.” Transportation Alternatives said the plan would “be harmful to New York’s quality of life.”

The proliferation of costumed characters in Times Square has been well-documented—many of the people behind the masks are struggling to get by.

Some want to unionize. Some have been arrested for getting a little violent. It’s very hard to walk through Times Square without, literally, bumping into an Elmo. Very hard. I once avoided walking into the arms of one Elmo and, in the process, was almost spit on by another one, who was spitting onto the sidewalk.

Apparently, the topless women are wreaking havoc also. The New York Times reports:

The topless women often accost men as they walk through Times Square, grabbing their arms or rubbing up against them while offering to pose for pictures, [Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins said].

But some think the mayor is overreacting:

and others see some sexism happening:

No matter what happens, we’re sure Times Square will stay horrible.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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