Tuesday December 07, 2021

Times Square's costumed menaces are the new squeegee men

By Andrea Peyser
August 1, 2014

Times Square's costumed menaces are the new squeegee men

One recent summer day, I led a young cousin who lives in another town through the tourist mecca of Times Square — New York City’s formerly grungy red-light district that today poses as a shiny, happy, family-friendly playground.

Within minutes, I realized I had entered a kind of bizarro Disneyland, a sinister place that looks ­benign on the surface.

“Mickey Mouse!’’ the little cousin cried. “Batman!’’ he shrieked. But within minutes, even the 6-year-old noticed that Batman’s suit was frayed. Spider-Man reeked of booze. We got out of there quickly, but not before I plunked down $40 to these freaks, a kind of exit fee I was intimidated into paying in the hope of ending a boy’s torment.

Two decades ago, then-Mayor Giuliani ran the sex industry out of Times Square. Former Mayor Bloomberg installed pedestrian plazas where visitors might cool their heels after dining at Olive Garden. Soon the area became a breeding ground for new types of squeegee men — folks who once traumatized motorists by slopping buckets full of dirty water on windshields, scraped them with squeegees and demanded money in return.

It’s extortion.

Junior Bishop, 25, clad as Spider-Man, was arrested Saturday after, cops said, he posed for a tourist’s picture, then refused the woman’s $1 tip, saying he wanted $10. Overhearing the exchange, Police Officer Eduardo Molina told the woman she could pay whatever she wanted, to which Bishop allegedly spewed, “F–k you! This is none of your business.’’ He tore off his mask, did not comply with the officer’s request that he show picture identification and, in a scuffle caught on videotape,the phony web-slinger allegedly punched Molina twice, causing the officer swelling around the eye and a laceration to the face. Bishop was charged with assault on a police officer, resisting ­arrest, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

“They’re like little terrorists preying on all the tourists,’’ a law-enforcement source told The Post of the costumed creatures.

Cops busted five more creeps last weekend, including the Naked Black Cowboy — real name Titus Gandy, 22 — who plays guitar while wearing nothing but his tighty whities. Gandy came to the Midtown South station house to check on his buddy, Bishop, and was nabbed on an open warrant and charged with drug possession after cocaine was found in his wallet during a frisk, sources said.

Others, including a man dressed as Captain America, face charges including aggressive panhandling.

And the geeks have only been more bold.

This week, the overdressed Times Square panhandlers were on the prowl. I saw the Naked Cowboy, someone in a furry Elmo suit and a man done up as Spider-Man hitting up tourists for donations.

Last month, the Broadway League, a trade group representing theater owners and operators, blamed a drop in ticket sales to suburban folks on those dastardly beasts dressed as cartoon characters who harass potential patrons. The City Council is considering legislation that would require anyone dressed as a cuddly cretin to display identification. “I think this has gone too far. It needs to be regulated,” Mayor de Blasio said.

In June, a Spider-Man (not Bishop) was convicted of harassment after punching a woman in an argument over her refusal to pay a tip. Characters have been accused of groping women. Last year, a man dressed as Cookie Monster was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and other counts after allegedly shoving a 2-year-old boy when his mother was slow to pay up. In 2012, an Elmo impersonator was busted in Times Square after alleged shouting “I hate Jews,’’ then pleaded guilty last year to attempted grand larceny and stalking for trying to shake down the Girl Scouts of America for $2 million, threatening to spread false rumors that the organization arranged sexual encounters between underage girls and adult men.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that owns the rights to Sesame Street characters (Cookie Monster, Elmo) is the only outfit to announce it’s considering taking legal action against brutes who dress up as its creations without authorization.

This can’t continue.

Mayor de Blasio — help! Run these creatures out of town immediately. Don’t give our city over to criminals masquerading as critters and caped crusaders.

©2007-2021 Andrea Peyser and andreapeyser.com; No Reuse without permission.
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