Topless women of Times Square say they can't be restricted

In the heart of Times Square, a grinning 2-year-old boy is flanked by a pair of strikingly posed, topless women, wearing only red, white and blue paint over their breasts, thongs, feathery headdresses and high heels.

Click. His mom takes a picture for the family album and hands the women a dollar bill.

It's one of dozens of interactions that take place every day with a growing legion of bare-chested ladies who seek tips by posing with passing men, women and, yes, children. Facing what they see as a cringe-worthy crisis after decades of scrubbing Times Square's once-sleazy image, some city officials are now proposing to confine both the topless women and the costumed characters working alongside them to designated "activity zones."

But several of the painted ladies who spoke candidly with The Associated Press this past week made it clear that, restrictions or not, they're not going anywhere.

"They can't do anything unless they change the Constitution," insisted Saira Nicole, 29, who works the square as part of a topless trio. She said she'd defy any move to relegate the women to a specific zone.

"You're not putting a stop to me, period."

The presence of the topless women over the past year has shaken the Crossroads of the World in ways that the similarly photo-hawking costumed characters who came before - Elmos, Spider-Men and Sponge Bobs - never did. It reached a peak this summer with reports of some of the women aggressively accosting passers-by, grabbing their arms and urging them to stop and pose.