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Desperate Characters (

Andy King, a first-term city councilman from the Bronx, is a bow-tie enthusiast. He likes them in a range of colors (teal, purple, gold) and has a catholic taste for prints (dotted, striped, checkered). On the job, he wears everything from red slacks to bright yellow blazers to lime-green shirts paired with aqua khakis. One recent morning, the council member made a brief stop in Times Square, dressed in a purple shirt and matching purple horse-bit loafers.

King is finalizing a bill directed at a group he calls “costumed individuals.” These are the people, largely immigrants, who dress as Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Spider-Man, to name just a few, and pose with tourists for tips in Times Square. (Earlier this summer, I wrote about a nineteen-year-old Elmo named Virgilia Reyes.) Their ranks have swelled since the Bloomberg administration closed off parts of Times Square to car traffic, in 2011, leaving broad patches of fresh pedestrian space. Now, up to eighty costumed individuals mill around Times Square on any given afternoon.

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