A New Jersey resident who dresses up like a giant red apple in Times Square is suing the city and the NYPD for what he says is years of harassment by city police.
Steven Mercier said he could make up to $300 a day posing for tourist snapshots. But starting in 2006, and continuing through last year, Mercier said cops started ticketing and threatening him. Meanwhile, he complained, the Naked Cowboy gets to strut his stuff undisturbed just feet away.
Although not part of his lawsuit, he claimed the Cowboy, real name Robert Burke, is protected by a letter from the mayor’s office telling the NYPD to leave him alone. City Hall said no such letter exists, but that hasn’t stopped the mascot rumor mill from running. Burck said he’s heard whispers about such a letter but chalked it up to sour grapes.
Mercier says his problems peaked last summer. “Eight cops surrounded me, and told me to leave. One of them pushed me. They wanted me to take off the suit right there in the middle of Times Square. It was embarrassing.”
In his big fuzzy suit, Mercier said he provides a more G-rated photo-op than the Naked Cowboy.
Just don’t block the sidewalk
Anyone has the First Amendment right to stand in Times Square, said a city law office spokesperson. But they could be ticketed if they block the sidewalk or the street.
Mercier has been arrested once and slammed with seven tickets since 2006, for disorderly conduct, vending in an illegal zone and blocking pedestrian traffic.