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 (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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