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Home » Criminal Law » New York vs. Elmo, Topless Women, & Other Classic Characters

New York vs. Elmo, Topless Women, & Other Classic Characters

two elmos stand in times squareIt’s about time the city starting dealing with all those stray Elmos in Times Square! At least, that’s a sentiment apparently shared by the New York Police Department, as well as various uncomfortable tourists and locals. Obviously this must not include the demographic of tourists willing to fork over cash to have Buzz Lightyear take their photos with the Elmo of their choice (or vice versa).

Yes, let me be perfectly clear, it’s not just the Elmos that seem to be breeding like rabbits out there — all those topless, painted women also need regulating. So do the Batmans and Spongebobs. Oh, what the hell! Everybody wearing a costume in Times Square, GET OUT. There’s a law against you in the works.

Here an Elmo, There an Elmo, Everywhere an Elmo, Elmo

I’ll be honest. “Elmo” seems less and less like a real word the more I spell it out. Also, I am definitely struggling with the notion of an army of Elmos actually posing a threat to anybody. Are there just too many of them? Do they disgrace their uniforms by being more vulgar than The One True Elmo, or something?

Not sure about that second one. You’d have to ask the folks back at Sesame Street HQ about TOTE (The One True Elmo). But the “too many” issue appears to be real, based on the fact that the new bill drafted by New York City “restricts the characters to a handful of designated zones,” in the words of a Reuters article on the issue. It also mentions that the legislative actions comes “in response to scared tourists and annoyed locals.”

Their words, not mine — but apparently too many Elmos is scary. I’m inclined to believe that. However, I have a hard time believing that a mob of Elmos all corralled into a single zone allegedly the size of a city bus is less terrifying. The odds of tourists and New Yorkers quickly figuring out how to avoid these nightmarish pens seem pretty high.

“Elmo just trying to get by,” said Elmo.

Indeed, let’s not forget that these costumed characters aren’t terrorizing Times Square just because they’ve got energy to burn. This is how they pay the bills. So it’s pretty understandable that all these Elmos, and Spidermans, and Darth Vaders are getting sort of huffy about how their already frustrating jobs are going to become considerably less tolerable.

One thing in particular that’s grinding the workers’ gears is a general consensus that the proposed bill would unjustly target them, cutting off their access to customers. They’ve also been quite vocal in defending their livelihoods. As one man who dresses as the Joker put it at a court hearing last week, they “do not harass people or block traffic.” Live and let live, right? Elmo’s got rent to pay! Do you know how much rent costs in the Big Apple?!

Of course, it’s not so simple. Despite the Joker’s claims that none of the characters are crossing any legal boundaries while doing their work, there have been a smattering of upsetting situations on behalf of a select few. There were fifteen arrests in 2015, and since January of this year, sixteen more characters have been charged with crimes ranging from assault, to forcible touching, grand larceny.

There’s also the fact that the Times Square Alliance, one of the businesses that assisted the city in drafting the bill, has labeled the situation as a “quality of life issue.”

Their stance has a lot to do with the question of atmosphere. Once upon a time, Times Square was where New Yorkers went to buy mercilessly ribbed dildos, watch smut films on the big screen, and get mugged by street toughs. But ever since the early 90’s, there’s been a concerted effort on behalf of NYC to transform Times Square from a sexy dumpster to a family-fun experience — an effort that’s largely succeeded.

With that in mind, the city’s reasons for pushing restrictions on costumed characters become more understandable. Especially since a considerable chunk of these “characters” are really just topless women who painted themselves. Tip, please!

Combine that with the unfortunate truth that, no, costumed characters are not sinless across the board, and the new bill suddenly seems a bit easier to get behind. If it passes, and someone gets mugged by an Elmo, it’ll be way easier to sort through them all if they’re confined to a concise area. It’d also help prevent those sorts of crimes altogether.

No Perfect Solutions (For Anything)

It’s a sticky situation. On one hand, you’ve got reasonably upset people in costumes who are worried about making ends meet. On the other, you’ve got criminal Elmos and kids potentially ogling the exposed breasts of colorful women. I mean, whaddya do? Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance puts it similarly:

“It really is a compromise to recognize that there are people earnestly earning a living, but also that there’s been some real problems that just like any other commercial activity you need to regulate it.”

Very true, Tim, very true. The question is — what’s the best way to do so? Hopefully, this issue will resolve itself with cooperation from both ends. A rational solution is probably best reached by the city and the Elmos working toward an endgame that works for everybody.

At Turner Law Offices, P.C., our team of attorneys has years of experience working with clients across a wide range of cases related to petty crimes, including those involving violence. If you or a loved one is the victim of an assault, or you’re unjustly charged yourself, the best course of action is to seek legal representation immediately. The sooner you get started on your defense or prosecution, the better your chances of a successful resolution. Call today, or go online to set up your free initial consultation, and meet with a skilled lawyer who’s ready and waiting to get you on track toward the justice you deserve.

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