New Jersey

Elmo: Times Square Zones Make Me ‘Feel Like a Caged Animal'

Costumed characters and street performers are only allowed to ask tourists for money in specific zones

After one day, Elmo says the new blue activity zones in Times Square make him "feel like a caged animal."

Luis Martinez, the Elmo impersonator and New Jersey native, said, “I came here because it felt free, it felt good.”

But now that he is restricted in eight painted zones, he has one clear thought: “they suck.”

The so-called Designated Activity Zones went into effect Tuesday. Costumed characters and street performers are only allowed to ask tourists for money in those zones, and movement outside the zones results in tickets and jail time.

Some characters are happier about the zones than others.

Robert Burck, also known as the “Naked Cowboy,” said Wednesday that the blue-area zones are the “greatest thing that ever happened.”

The 45-year-old Burck has been working in Times Square for 18 years. Burck says he makes more money in less time with the zones, and is able to stay in one place while people come up to him.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BG-EMy3QwYN

“There’s rules everywhere, not a big deal,” Burck said. “Just don’t step out of the box.”

But Laura Suarez, a Gray Line City Sightseeing worker, said the zones are inhibiting. "We can’t move around and do our thing,” she said.

Suarez says some tourists do not know about the zones and “we can’t go up to them.”

Suarez explains she gets paid for commission on tickets sold, and the new restrictions do not allow her to engage with people and explain the bus tours -- unless they talk to her first.

She says she will respect the laws because she does not want to cause any problems.

Tourist Lynn Conley, from Lakewood, New Jersey, likes the change. She said  the "characters harass people" and she plans to stay away from the zones.  

Contact Us