TIMES SQUARE (PIX11) –– Lady Liberty, Spider-Man, Elmo, Woody and Hello Kitty – they’re just some of the many costumed characters making a living in Times Square on any given day.
While some pedestrians welcome the photo op that comes with a price tag, the reputation of the characters has been tainted by a string of incidents in recent months.
In June, a 22-year-old man wearing a Spider-Man costume was arrested after allegedly groping a woman’s breast and rear end.
Earlier this year, another man dressed up like Woody from Disney’s “Toy Story” was cuffed and charged for forcible touching.
“This has gotten out of control,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, told PIX11 News.
Tompkins met with elected officials Wednesday to discuss concerns over all the bad behavior from the typically beloved characters.
“Let’s protect consumers and regulate this business through a licensing scheme,” he explained. “[It will] allow the activity to happen but then if there’s a bad character you can say ‘hey look Elmo #36 held on to my daughter insisting on a tip and that’s not cool.’ So that person’s license would be revoked.”
Characters who spoke to PIX11, suggested the headlines were exaggerated. A man dressed as videogame character Super Mario said he’s never had an issue with patrons.
“I’ve never had any problems here,” the street performer said in Spanish. “They should regulate us. I am absolutely open to it.”
One of the biggest complaints about these Times Square characters is the interaction with pedestrians that some would describe it as “bullying” passersby for tips.
Unfortunately the regulation cannot dictate how they talk to pedestrians, however if they forcibly touch or harass them, it’s a different story.
Quanasia Sykes of the Bronx knows all too well how aggressive the street performers can get. While crossing Broadway near West 45th Street Wednesday afternoon, she was touched by the same ‘Super Mario’ performer who spoke to PIX11 cameras just minutes earlier.
“It’s very annoying! I can’t believe the character touched me,” she said. “I don’t care who you are, I’m not a child and you shouldn’t be touching me because you’ll get arrested.”
Although a bill has been drafted to regulate the street performers – which also addresses the unauthorized use of licensed characters – no immediate timeline has been set.