Vallone mulls laws to curb costume character heckling
It's legal for Cookie Monster and other masked performers to work for tips in Times Square, but after recent incidents involving the costume characters heckling tourists, an elected official says the city should reconsider the rules.
City Councilman Peter Vallone said he is working on two bills that would either ban or regulate the performers.
Vallone, who chairs the City Council's Public Safety Committee, said he's concerned about the the arrest of a Cookie Monster performer who allegedly shoved a 2-year-old boy over the weekend and othe incidents because it it could ruin Times Square's image as a safe place for tourists and New Yorkers.
"We need to make sure the city has the resources to deal with this if it really gets out of hand," he said.
One bill that he is working on would require the performers to register with the city's Department of Consumer Affairs and go through a vetting process.
"If they are dressed in a character that is licensed, they need to show proof that they got permission," Vallone said.
A second bill he is considering would ban costumed characters from soliciting pedestrians. Vallone acknowledged that there are First Amendment issues with an outright ban but said he is looking at a similar law in Las Vegas.
When asked about his reaction to the Cookie Monster incident, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it's difficult to regulate the performers.
"You have the right to dress up however you want," he said at a news conference Tuesday.