First Amendment for Some: Return of the City Sleaze Merchants

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Free speech for porn peddlers were pitted against the rights of residents and the porn peddlers won in a major U.S. city, at least for now.

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In 2011, The Daily Mail had an article comparing New York City’s Times Square of the 1900s with the Times Square of today and they quoted former president Bill Clinton in it as he recalled how New York’s Times Square was once a crime-ridden danger zone filled with prostitutes and crooks. He said it was “romantic and fascinating”.

I don’t doubt he said that.

Hustlers, muggers, prostitutes, traffickers, pimps, and assorted criminals made it a no-go area in the 1960s through the 1980s.

I went through it as a kid when I had to and couldn’t make it more than a few blocks without a perverted-looking individual trying to lure me into a free porn movie. A half-naked man – and it wasn’t his chest that was exposed – chased me for a block through the theater district on one occasion.

Anyone who knew the city took a cab to the theater and most people knew to stay away from Times Square. It was the home of porn peddlers and the criminals they attracted. It was a haven for thieves and drug dealers.

Years of lawsuits and finally, rezoning under Rudy Giuliani made them all disappear.

It went from this:

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To this:

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The old dangerous, criminal and perverted Times Square is creeping back in. Erotica businesses aka adult establishments like the Playpen, Lace and Private Eyes are open for business with more to come.

On July 21st, the Manhattan appeals court overturned the twenty years of fights to clean up the area and declared that the sleaze merchants can return.

Numerous sex shops, topless dance clubs, porn video and bookshops, and risqué businesses are seeking liquor licenses or just space.

The Law Department is reviewing the decision but with a communist mayor in New York, it’s hard to imagine a big fight against it. Some of the sextablishments have already returned.

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Free speech is vital to upholding our freedoms but the problem is these enterprises quickly become criminal enterprises. They attract the worst of the worst. When it gets bad enough, perhaps something will be done.

In 1995, Giuliani, seeking to rid the city of the crime attached to the peep shows, strip joints, et al, passed a zoning resolution banning erotic cabarets, stores, and others from operating in residential areas, and within 500 feet of another sextablishment, a school or a house of worship.

When these businesses challenged the law in 1998, the regulations were changed to define an adult establishment as 40 percent or more pornographic merchandise. Businesses tried to get around it with “sham” compliance. A 2012 lower court ruling that these sextablishments did not have to close was upheld on July 21st.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Barbara Kapnick wrote for the majority that even if New York City clubs “regularly feature topless dancing,” the law does not demand they be closed or relegated to the farthest reaches of the city. Writing in dissent, Justice Richard T. Andrias, accused the majority of using a flawed “mechanical and mathematical approach” that skirted the law’s intent to contain sexually explicit businesses, Front Page Magazine reported.

The case is one of free speech, the porn peddlers claim and they’ve pitted their “rights” against the rights of the residents and other business owners to determine what kind of town they will live and do business in.

At least one NYU professor interviewed by the New York Times said they don’t have the same effect and “the seediness comes from the cockroach capitalism of cheap T-shirt shops.”

Wait Professor, they’re just getting started and you’ll be begging for the T-shirt shops back one day.

Times Square today is a budding enterprise of sextablishments.

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PornHub is a pornographic online site with 44 million users. They put up various ads for their business in the heart of the district.

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One business took it down over complaints. We are back to the days when small battles will be won but the porn merchants will dominate. The First Amendment covers peddlers of sleaze but not the people who have to live and work surrounded by it.

no more pornhub