Erogenous zones: New York porn shops say goodbye to Broadway.

Author:Seavey, Todd
SUMMARY

New York City is using zoning restrictions to transform 42nd Street from a 'walkway of sexual entertainment' into a more family-friendly area. Pornography businesses are being replaced by hotels and mainstream theaters, though they are challenging their ouster on First Amendment grounds.

 
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The replacement of the traditional marquee messages on New York City's 42nd Street with off-putting, sometimes shocking, slogans happened quickly. Where a world-famous walkway of sexual entertainment had once promised "Peep Shows!," "Lesbian, Bondage, European," and "All Nude All the Time," a disconcerting wave of government-sponsored modern-art phrases began to appear. "Is this true or only clever?" asked one. Another said, "All art is either revolution or plagiarism." The slogans graced the otherwise barren fronts of buildings the city government had bought or condemned.

This was the most visible manifestation of the city's ongoing effort to eliminate most of the adult entertainment outlets near Times Square - establishments such as Courageous Books, Peep O Rama, and the Adult Entertainment Shopping Center - and create a more family-friendly area for hotels and mainstream theaters, encouraging new investment. Already, a children's theater has opened on what was once the 42nd Street walk of porn.

Severe restrictions on New York City's remaining adult video stores, book shops, movie theaters, peep shows, strip clubs, and topless bars were scheduled to take effect on October 25. A state Supreme Court justice rejected a constitutional challenge on October 23, but implementation of the rules was delayed pending appeal. Under the ordinance, which the City Council approved by a 41-9 vote in October 1995, adult entertainment establishments are largely banished to outer boroughs, waterfronts, and commercial zones. They are not allowed to operate within 500 feet of each other or within 500 feet of schools, places of worship, or residential areas. The city predicts that fewer than 30 of 177 known sexual entertainment outlets in New York will be permitted to remain at their current locations. That means closing or moving more than 80 percent of the businesses.

For purposes of regulation, the law defines pornography (in part) as visual materials or live performers displaying any of the following: human genitals during sex or in a state of arousal; "actual or simulated acts of masturbation, intercourse, or sodomy"; or "specified anatomical areas," including "human male genitals in a discernibly turgid state, even if completely and opaquely concealed." A video or book store with more than 40 percent of its stock devoted to such material qualifies as an adult entertainment establishment. The rules would not affect mainstream entertainment stores with small porn sections, such as the new Virgin Megastore at Broadway and 45th Street (despite its suggestive name). The ordinance follows the state's definition of strip clubs and topless bars, based on the...

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