NYC Pushes to Regulate Elmo, Batman in Times Square After String of Harassment Incidents

Times Square in New York / AP
March 30, 2016

New York City officials are pushing to regulate the costumed characters and naked painted ladies that have become emblematic in Times Square, citing harassment and "nuisance quality of life issues."

The City Council is considering legislation that would restrict the costumed classics to certain zones after arrests of cartoon mimics have become routine in the Big Apple, according to the Associated Press.

This past weekend, local outlets reported that a costumed Spider-Man was arrested on an assault charge after kicking a woman over a tip.

Democratic Councilman Dan Garodnick, who is sponsoring the bill, detailed similar incidents that have occurred within the past year, including Batman allegedly stealing $50 from a tourist, Elmo finding himself in handcuffs for aggressive solicitation, and Cookie Monster reportedly groping a teenager.

"Come to New York, duke it out with a superhero! Is that really what we want to be known for?" Garodnick said Monday during a press conference.


City Council members joined officials from the Times Square Alliance business group to create the legislation that would require characters to stand in certain areas when soliciting business. The Department of Transportation would be tasked with establishing the zones.

The legislation would also affect people who sell tickets in the city. One union group representing ticket sellers opposes the legislation, claiming it would negatively impact business.

Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said the bill would not ban the characters from Times Square entirely, rather, it would allow tourists and pedestrians to decide whether they want to interact with them.

"It’s about being hugged when you don’t want to be hugged, being touched, being groped, those kinds of things," Tompkins said.

The City Council held a hearing on the legislation Wednesday, which has the backing of "Naked Cowboy" Robert Burck.

"I pledge my full support for any legislation and or regulation that would improve and organize the situation," Burck told the New York Daily News. "If I have to lose some of my own little freedom to run around so be it. I think it will increase the quality of the performers."

A 25-year-old Batman disagreed.

Evan Laws told Associated Press the legislation would cut his tips in half if he’s restricted to a zone. He said he currently makes between $100 to $150 each day.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, created a task force last year aimed at solving "quality of life issues" spurred by the costumed characters.

The City Council’s latest action follows a recent survey by the Alliance finding that 61 percent of Times Square employees reported a negative encounter with the characters. Another 51 percent meanwhile said the interaction made them feel "unsafe."

Published under: Bill de Blasio , New York