No Big Apple Big Hug Mug For You
(New York Times Online) For years, Jermaine Himmelstein, 24, has held a sign offering “Free Hugs” in public places like Times Square and Washington Square Park, a seemingly kind offer that could brighten the days of tourists and lunch-breakers.
For years, it hasn’t worked like that. The sign is a lie; Mr. Himmelstein has frequently accosted people who don’t tip him, in some cases assaulting them. Far from spreading joy, he was described in a 2013 profile in The New York Times as “a creepy legend.”
On Thursday, he was arrested and charged with robbery after punching a 22-year-old Canadian tourist, a woman, in the face at 46th Street and Broadway in Times Square, sending her to a hospital with severe swelling to her face... She had taken a photo with Mr. Himmelstein and refused his demands to pay him, the police said.