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 Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

womensworldcup

Here is a look at some of this weekend's major sporting events.

in National

Making headlines this week

summertime

A look at some of the biggest headlines this week and the stories you may have missed.

in Entertainment, Sports

Mayweather, Pacquiao, Perry among the ‘best paid’ celebrities

maypac

Musicians and athletes dominate the world's highest-paid celebs, according to the latest rankings.

in National

Soldier arrested for carrying assault rifle in NC mall

fayetteville

A Fort Bragg soldier has been charged with creating a panic at a mall after appearing with an assault rifle.

in Entertainment, National

Celebrate safely with these fireworks tips

Since Independence Day falls during the work week, members of St. Richard Catholic Church celebrated the holiday on Sunday, June 30, 2013, with a picnic-style outing complete with fireworks that could be seen throughout the northeast Jackson, Miss. neighborhood. The long streamers were recorded in a 13-second time exposure. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Don't be one of the thousands of Americans injured by fireworks on July Fourth. Stay safe and have a happy holiday!