City Council Bill To Set Rules For Times Square’s Costumed Characters

September 9, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

After much controversy, Councilman Andy King has announced pending legislation to regulate costumed characters who pose with tourists in Times Square and then ask for tips. He believes that regulations, including background checks and licenses, would be beneficial for all involved.

“Most of the people out here are hard-working, law-abiding men and women, but there have been a couple of bad actors, like the Elmo that kind of lost his mind,” he said, referring to a performer who was taken into police custody after shouting obscenities in 2012, “and we need to make sure that nobody in Times Square feels violated and that everyone is protected.”

Characters would be required to wear licenses on the outside of their costumes, pay a $175 fee every two years and refrain from soliciting in the street or within five feet of a subway entrance. They would also be barred from aggressive solicitations, which has been an issue in the past.

King said the performers would also be protected from unwarranted police action “if we’re all using the same playbook.” Representatives of the costumed characters, as part of the New York Artists United for a Smile organization, said that they had not been asked for input in creating the bill and that it would unfairly hurt their businesses. (Photo: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)