NEW YORK (AP) — Bright red police leaflets warning Times Square tourists that photos with costumed characters are free, and tipping is optional, are taking a bite out of the bottom line for the many Elmos, Mickey Mouses, SpongeBobs and Statues of Liberty who dress up to help make ends meet.
The blitz kicked off over the weekend, with officers handing out fliers in five languages. City officials say they had to take action after physical attacks on some visitors, including children. The unruliness peaked last month when a Spider-Man was accused of punching a police officer for telling a woman the character could not force her to pay up.
Hours after the fliers started circulating Saturday, four fake superheroes were arrested for blocking pedestrians and grabbing one for a picture.
Some of the mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants who wear the giant costumes say they have been left with far less to feed their families.
“Photos with costumed characters are free. Tipping is optional,” read the warnings in English, Spanish, Chinese, German and French. Visitors are told to find police or call 911 if they’re being pressured for cash.
Standing 7 feet tall and swathed in light green robes with an American flag pouring down her right arm, Lady Liberty — as played by Hugo Gomez, a 34-year-old Dominican immigrant with three children — has a prime spot in the middle of Times Square.
He leaned down to whisper to a reporter that before the police-enforced measure, he drew about $150 in tips each day. In recent days, he made about $40.
Gomez said he never begs. People still come to him, but the cash has shrunk. And standing on prosthetic devices for five-hour stretches is taking a toll, he said — without much payoff.
“My skin swells every day,” he says, his eyes gleaming behind his mask.
One Elmo who’s losing money is angry at police.
“All they say is, ‘Go, go, go away, move, move, move!'” says Alberto Ramirez, a Peruvian native from New Jersey standing by the TKTS theater discount booth, where people in line behind barricades are an easy target.
He says he pulled in $20 for eight hours, half of the $40 he made before, with five kids to feed.
City officials say the warnings were needed to curtail any abuse.
“They’re doing it for people’s safety,” says Barati Narasim, a New York mother and software expert who offered a few dollars to a Spider-Man posing with her son and his friend.
The City Council is working on a bill to require licensing, something Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, says would help legitimate operators by putting “bad players” out of business.
Even Gomez, aka Lady Liberty, favors licensing.
“We all know legalizing our work with a license,” he says, “would make things normal, smoother.”
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(Photo Source: AP)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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