News

Lawmakers hope to clamp down on Times Square’s characters

Lawmakers hope to clamp down on Times Square’s characters

COSTUMED CHARACTERS:tighter restrictions are likely ahead for the people who don the oversized costumes and pose for pictures with tourists for a fee. Photo: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Spider-man have been adored by generations of children, but their costumed counterparts who roam New York City’s Times Square are more a public nuisance, New York City lawmakers said on Wednesday.

Indeed, tighter restrictions are likely ahead for the people who don the oversized costumes and pose for pictures with tourists for a fee, City Council members said at a meeting of the Times Square Alliance.

The unlicensed workers, who are under scrutiny in the wake of unsavory incidents with tourists, can be very aggressive, said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“They accost people,” she said. “They ask to take a picture. They ask for money. They chase people to the ATM sometimes for money.”

Last month, a worker dressed as Spider-Man was fined $370 for punching a tourist who had pelted him with snow.

Last year, a costumed Cookie Monster was arrested for shoving a 2-year-old child whose mother failed to tip him, and in 2012, a man dressed as Elmo was arrested for an anti-Semitic tirade.

The council is likely to put forward legislation to regulate the characters but would protect their right to artistic expression, Brewer said.

City lawmakers have said that dressing up in a costume in Times Square could be protected under the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Last year, legislation to regulate the characters, including licensing requirements, failed to pass the City Council.

Brewer said that companies such as the Walt Disney Co, which holds the trademark for Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Japan’s Sanrio Co which holds the trademark for Hello Kitty, could take legal action.

Lawmakers at the meeting said the number of characters has proliferated. On a recent Saturday, the Alliance surveyed the tourist-heavy Times Square and counted 76 costumed performers.

The most popular characters were Elmo – a character on the children’s television show “Sesame Street,” and Mickey and Minnie Mouse, it said.

A recent poll found that about one in six New Yorkers had had an unpleasant experience with the characters, the Alliance said, while two in five businesses and individuals it includes as members had had bad run-ins with the characters.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Bernadette Baum)

Recent Headlines

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: Johnny JamBoogie

Fresh
18-overlay8

If football doesn't workout, "Johnny Football" always has this to fall back on.

in Entertainment

Reese Witherspoon goes ‘Legally Blonde’ for cancer-stricken fan

Fresh
Reese Witherspoon stars in a scene from "Legally Blonde."

Reese Witherspoon played dress-up for a four year old who is obsessed by her alter ego Elle Woods from her 2001 hit "Legally Blonde."

in Lifestyle

Power cords, children’s furniture among this week’s recalls

Fresh
hp

HP is recalling 6 million power cords for overheating and the deaths of two children have prompted the recall of bean bag chairs.

in Entertainment

Today’s celebrity birthdays

liampayne

A member of One Direction is legal and a longtime TV personality celebrates his 73rd birthday.

in Entertainment

Joan Rivers stable after health emergency

joan

Comedienne Joan Rivers is in stable condition at a New York hospital after losing her breath during a routine surgery.