03.15.05

Tales Of Times Square – Porn Again

Posted in Free Expression at 2:28 am by

Though it might not herald a revival of Sleazoid Express, the New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore writes that the efforts of Michael Bloomberg’s predecessor┬áto turn Times Square into an endless strip of Footlockers, Olive Gardens and Starbucks’ have run smack into economic reality.

Ten years after Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (above) declared war on Times Square’s X-rated peep shows, strip joints and video stores, shops selling sexually explicit materials have slowly begun to creep back into the area, adroitly exploiting loopholes in the law – and property-owners’ demand for high-paying tenants – to stage their comeback.

Sex-related stores have been popping up again in other neighborhoods in the city, notably in Chelsea. But their reappearance on the side streets and avenues near Times Square is especially significant, given the large amount of time and money city officials have spent to reinvent the area as a family-friendly tourist destination.

The areas that have seen the biggest resurgence are on Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and on 37th and 39th Streets near the Avenue of the Americas, where the number of sex shops has tripled, to 18 from 6, in a year and a half. North of 42nd Street, the increase has been smaller, with only three of the 17 stores in the area opening since 2003.

Part of the growth owes to the agility with which store owners have learned to comply with city zoning regulations adopted in the mid-1990′s to keep them out of residential neighborhoods and away from schools and churches.

But development officials and local business owners say that another factor has been the shops’ willingness to pay well above market rents.

“There’s a disparity between what the porn guys will pay and what the market will bear,” said Tom Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. “And it tends not to be the bigger landlords. It’s a guy who owns a three-story building, and the apartments above are rent-stabilized, so the great majority of his return on the building comes from the ground-floor retail.”

Perhaps the biggest such cluster is on Eighth Avenue, where business was brisk on a recent Friday afternoon.

“There’s one,” said Bill Daley, slyly nudging his elbow toward a middle-aged man in a jacket and tie who, just seconds earlier, had darted into a doorway marked with a movie poster for “The Bourne Supremacy” but beyond which were visible titles of a saucier variety.

Mr. Daley sighed grimly. “People always think it’s the creeps and bums who go to these stores,” he said. “But if you go there after lunch or after work, you’ll see all these guys in suits. It’s usually family guys who stop on their way home.”

Yeah, well, I used to figure the same thing about anyone who shopped at Bleeker Bob’s. But if you went in there after lunch or after work, it was packed with guys in suits.

One Response to “Tales Of Times Square – Porn Again”

  1. Tommy Hoops says:

    CSTB -

    Please dont slander the fine people of the pornography industry by comparing them in any way to Bleeker Bobs.

    TH