Mascots Of Times Square Oppose City’s Attempt To Regulate Them

November 20, 2014 | Prachi Gupta

The Batman and The Joker have banded together in a rare show of unity to fight a new mutual threat: The New York City Council. The New York Times reports that the mascots of Times Square, including Hello Kitty and the Big Apple, appeared before the Consumer Affairs Committee on Wednesday to oppose a proposed regulation that would require workers to be “licensed and fingerprinted.”

The regulation, proposed by Councilman Andy King, is an attempt to “rein in” the mascots. Usually posing for photos in exchange for tips, some of them have been in the headlines for unruly, aggressive, and violent behavior: Spider-Man attacked an NYPD officer in July, Elmo was arrested for aggressive solicitation, and Cookie Monster went to jail for allegedly punching a toddler. There’s also anti-Semitic Elmo and pervy Super Mario.

Here’s what Councilman Andy King’s bill, drafted in September, proposes:

The bill, which is co-sponsored by 22 of Mr. King’s Council colleagues, would require that all “costumed individuals” who want to solicit tips obtain a license, which would cost $170 for two years. (The bill defines a costume as an outfit or makeup that “obscures or shrouds the face of a person beyond recognition” or “causes a person to resemble a character rather than his or her own personal identity.”)

The proposal would require those soliciting money while in costume to be fingerprinted, with their prints stored in the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services database. The bill also states that registered sex offenders or those with criminal records “with a direct relationship to the activities permitted by the license” would be disqualified.

The major fear among performers, reports the Times, is that the regulations will “make it more difficult to support themselves and their families, and potentially put some of them in danger of being deported.” While the City Council did not address the concern of deportation specifically, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio “has made it clear that city agencies should not assist in the deportation of immigrants who are not serious criminals.”

The New York Post reports that Keith Albahae, dressed as the Joker, invoked his First Amendment rights before the council. “I do this from my heart and not for tips,” he said. “OK, I do ask for tips. And many people are glad to give them, but this is about the First Amendment and this is about discrimination. This straight up seems like fascism.”

(Photo: Paul Gorbould)