NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Costumed cartoon characters on the Coney Island boardwalk are drawing mixed reviews.
The NYPD increased patrols on out-of-control characters in Times Square demanding tips for photos. CBS2’s Meg Baker gauged the response to their new venue on Thursday.
It looks like SpongeBob has taken the yellow line to Coney Island’s boardwalk.
“If we see them we will probably go in the other direction,” observer Ammi Small said.
After dozens of complaints and arrests, the costumed panhandlers have been under a microscope in New York City’s tourist hot spot. So, they’ve taken their gig to the beach.
“I used to work in Times Square and it really bothered me when they were there, so I just feel like now they have just brought their hustle here, moving from one place to the next, kind of like predators, so I’m not happy about it,” Small said.
Most of the locals Baker spoke to weren’t happy about it, either.
“I remember them in Times Square, especially around Christmas. It was horrendous. We would get accosted every time,” Charlotte White said.
“They should be banned here, if that nonsense is going to spread here,” Raymond Carrion added.
Many of the parents Baker saw outside the Wonder Wheel couldn’t stop their kids from running up to the character, but if they snapped a picture, SpongeBob wanted his cut, Baker reported.
One mom let her kids interact with SpongeBob, take a picture and walk away. With a blue money bag in one hand, the character followed the woman soliciting for a tip.
“If they start to get aggressive it’s a problem,” White said.
The city Park Department told CBS2, “The characters on the Coney Island boardwalk are considered ‘Expressive Matter Vendors,’ and therefore do not need permits.”
The manager of Tom’s Coney Island said the costumer wearers just add even more character to the boardwalk.
“It brings more karma, more personality to the boardwalk. It’s great,” Mateo Castelli said.
A police officer Baker spoke to said a dozen or so characters have been showing up on weekends, with no complaints yet.