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Times Square performers in limited areas

Associated Press Associated Press 9/06/2016

New York City has started painting teal rectangles in pedestrian plazas in Times Square to confine the costumed Elmos and Spider-Men who pose for photos and solicit tips from tourists.

The colour-coded Designated Activity Zones are meant to rein in the pushy panhandlers who have flooded the area, in some cases harassing passers-by to pay for photos with them.

Workers started painting the Designated Activity Zones on Wednesday.

Under a law signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April, street performers and costumed characters can be issued summonses or even face arrest if they are caught operating outside the eight designated rectangles. Each area is painted teal and measures 8 feet by 50 feet (2.44m x 15.24m).

Some of the conflict has been over the expectation of tipping after the performers take pictures with tourists.

Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins said that in the past a lot of tourists didn't realise a tip was expected and the performers were often "aggressive about insisting on a tip".

The organisation originally handed out fliers to tourists reminding them that tipping is optional. But as the new zones go into effect starting on June 21, the alliance will be posting signs with the message, "If you take a photo with an entertainer, please note tipping is expected."

A team of 10 city workers will begin an education blitz next week to inform the performers and the public about the new rules.

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