By Michael Gartland and Stephanie Pagones
It’s called the Crossroads of the World, but these days it’s the Worst Place on Earth.
Traffic, tourists, construction, commuters and a seemingly endless array of cartoon characters, nudists and hawkers add up to a nightmare on the Great White Way.
“There are really almost no rules out here,” said Matthew Lineham, 26, of Brooklyn, who has hawked tickets to comedy shows in Times Square for three years. “More and more people are running scams. Mascots and people selling tickets are aggressive.”
“I see Spider-Man mugging people all the time,” he continued. “I just saw a bus guy get in a fight like five minutes ago. I’ve been punched. I’ve been spit at. There are so many things that shouldn’t be going on out here.”
The chaos isn’t relegated to just one street corner or block — it’s everywhere, from 42nd Street all the way up to 48th.
And it’s so bad that Broadway officials blame the chaos for slumping ticket sales, prompting the Times Square Alliance to push for a law that would require costumed characters to register with the city to ply their trade.
“People are coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘This creeps me out,’ ” said Tim Tompkins, president of the business alliance.
For two muggy days last week, two Post reporters soaked up the noisy, stinky mess that is the new Times Square. What they saw wasn’t the hooker-, pimp- and junkie-packed Gomorrah of the bad old days, but it wasn’t pretty either:
A crowd of 10 cartoon characters and superheroes clogged a pedestrian island bounded by 46th Street, Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
Elmo and Minion stripped off their bulky costumes, sat down against a cluster of sticky recycling bins and puffed on cigarettes. Three Statues of Liberty — one on stilts, two others standing on crates — stood in a row.
A tatted-up, 5-foot-tall version of Bane, the Batman villain, grabbed a young boy’s arm, walked him away from his mother with no warning and posed with him. Bane, decked out with 4-inch platform boots and a fake hand grenade, flexed his biceps as the confused mother tried to pull her curious son away.
Captain America sidled up to a group of pretty teenage girls. “What’s up? Where you from?” he asked, coming closer. One girl pushed him away.
A teenage boy threw an empty plastic eyeglass case to the ground.
“I think you dropped something,” a man passing said. “Nah — I threw it,” he replied, without breaking stride.
Elsewhere, a man hoisted a placard that read: “ ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you’ — God.”
On Broadway between 47th and 48th streets, 11 men were trying to sell their demo CDs.
“Free hip-hop. Free hip-hop,” they bellowed.
A man walked by with one hand up in futile, silent protest.
“What, you don’t like black people?” said one hawker.
A harried pedestrian navigating the fray rubbed his hands against both temples in frustration.
And a Brit quipped to his wife, “Apparently, Americans will do anything for money.”
All photos courtesy of J.C. Rice.