- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Muppets have a new gig — hustling New York City tourists to tip for photos — and city leaders say they can’t do anything about it.

A recent physical confrontation between a man dressed as Cookie Monster and a 2-year-old boy brought attention and scorn to the growing number of costumed street solicitors in Manhattan.

But officials say the furry buskers are beyond reproach after a court ruled last year that the city could not restrict the characters to certain areas since they are entertainers, not vendors.

“Dressing up in one of those suits and posing for photos is not a violation of the law,” New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly said, according to the New York Post.

Since the ruling, the number of solicitors has increased and subsequent problems have developed. The most recent incident occurred Sunday when the man dressed as Cookie Monster reportedly tussled with the toddler after the child’s mother didn’t tip him for a photo.

The skirmish follows a handful of other altercations, including a man dressed as Super Mario who reportedly groped a woman and an Elmo who railed against Jews, the Post reported.

“Our ability to treat these characters as vendors was eliminated,” city lawyer Gabriel Taussig told the Post. “And, absent of vending laws, there is no other law that comes close to dealing with where they can be located.”

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