Times Square’s Costumed Characters Might Have to Pay for the Privilege of Asking Tourists for Money

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A person dressed as Elmo from the television show Sesame Street, walks to pose for pictures with tourists in Times Square October 4, 2012. GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney  mentioned Sesame Street  in Wednesday night's debate when he vowed to cut funding to public broadcasting if elected. PBS's Sesame Street will be celebrating its 43rd birthday this year. AFP PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

This summer’s crackdown on the occasionally aggressive costumed characters roaming Times Square might lead to a new law. As he promised to back in July, New York City Councilman Andy King has proposed legislation that would require Elmo, Minnie Mouse, Iron Man, and the rest of the gang to get a license before they start hustling for tourists’ spare dollar bills.

Under King’s licensing plan, which he will formally introduce to the City Council on Wednesday, performers who cover or paint their faces would have to register with the Department of Consumer affairs, undergo a background check, and wear a badge featuring a (uncovered) photo, real name, and an identification number. License-carriers would also be prohibited from standing in the street, working within five feet of a subway entrance, and “aggressively” soliciting tips. Those who violate the rules would face fines, but everyone will have to pay the city a $175 fee every two years in order to keep their documents current.

Unsurprisingly, Times Square’s cuddly natives — many of whom are Latino immigrants — aren’t thrilled with King’s idea. From the New York Times:

Mr. King also said that this was not an immigration issue, or one targeted at Latino workers.

But an organization representing the characters, New York Artists United for a Smile, objected to the bill. They said they had not been asked to weigh in on the proposed bill, a contention disputed by Mr. King.

Alex Gomez, a spokesman for the organization, said that this bill would place a lot of burdens on the performers, and none on the Police Department. He also said that the $175 licensing fee was too expensive for the performers, who usually make about $60 to $80 per day.

They want us to pay a lot of money that we can’t afford,” Javier Suarez (known as the Statue of Liberty by day) told the New York Daily News. And Elizabeth Holland, who dresses up as the less well-known Officer Friendly, told CBS 2, “One out of the hundred, one bad apple that you have, you know the other 99 are suffering because of him.” Way to kill the magic for everyone, Spider-man

Times Square Characters Might Soon Need Licenses