De Blasio signs bill regulating Times Square characters

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NEW YORK — Visitors to Times Square are one step closer to seeing a change in how and where costumed characters, like Spider-Man and Elmo, operate within the Crossroads of the World.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill Thursday that allows city officials to restrict the characters’ movements to keep them from blocking pedestrians in the traffic-free parts of Times Square. The council approved the legislation earlier this month.

At a City Hall ceremony, de Blasio put his stamp of approval on the bill that caps a City Council effort to rein in aggressive and at times violent panhandlers who have flooded the square, some harassing pedestrians for money. They included topless, body-painted women who caused a furor last summer.

Manhattan Borough President called the Times Square situation something “between fun and frightening.”

Dozens of incidents have been reported involving costumed characters accused of physically assaulting tourists in an attempt to get tip money for photos taken with them.