It doesn't appear anyone has covered Kirk Semple's New York Times profile of the costumed characters working Times Square, so here's a link, a clip and the embedded video.

The population grew slowly for several years but exploded in 2011 after the creation of the pedestrian malls โ€” to the chagrin of the veterans.

"I feel like my industry has been destroyed," groused Juan Carlos Arias, 50, a Colombian Statue of Liberty who started performing in Times Square two decades ago, dancing salsa with a doll.

"Every day there is a new Spider-Man," sighed a Moroccan Spider-Man who gave only his first name โ€” El Houssine โ€” because he did not want his family to know how he was making his living in the United States. "There are, like, 16 Spider-Men."

Many of the performers live in working-class neighborhoods in New Jersey, a significant cluster of them in the city of Passaic.

"Next door there are five Elmos," said Miguel Lezama, a 27-year-old Mexican, as he stood in the kitchen of a small apartment in Passaic that he shares with two other immigrants. He pointed in another direction: "On that side, a Cookie Monster and a Minnie. In front, a Winnie-the-Pooh and a Minnie. Up on Main Avenue, there are lots more." He paused. "I live with a Cookie Monster."