NEW YORK, July 10 (UPI) -- Cookie Monster, Elmo, Spider-Man and other gaily costumed characters are scaring theatergoers away from New York's Times Square, business groups say.
The people wearing the costumes hope to make money posing for photographs with tourists. But officials say they are often aggressive in their demands for tips and sometimes indulge in other bad behavior.
A man dressed as Spider-Man was recently charged with trying to grope a woman.
"We are actually seeing a decline in local theatergoers and they tell us that it's because they are accosted, they are overwhelmed," Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, told the New York Post. "They're telling us this is beginning to make them not want to come to the theater."
The city council is considering drafting legislation that would limit the number of costume-wearing characters in the neighborhood and require them to get city licenses.
The Times Square Alliance said its employees did a count last week and found 76 characters in the area, including nine Elmos, seven Mickey Mouses, six Minnie Mouses and seven dressed as the Statue of Liberty. A survey of pedestrians found that half had reported bad experiences with the costume-wearers.
While the cartoon figures represent a break from the old Times Square of peep-shows and adult entertainment, many in the area say they have nothing to do with the area or its history.
"They need to go," said Sheila Leonard, who works in the neighborhood. "This is not a New York City thing. These characters are imports who have nothing to do with the city."
Taz Rihan, a messenger, said the characters seem to get nastier in the summer, possibly because the costumes are unbearably hot.
One Mickey Mouse told the Post he's "trying to make an honest living."
"I don't get in the way of anyone," he said.