If you resent the Disneyfication of Times Square and miss the old, sleazy version, take heart. In a story that I'd like to think was inspired by its editorial staff's lunchtime porn shopping, The New York Times reports that the number of "sex shops" on Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and on 37th and 39th Streets near Sixth Avenue has tripled, from six to 18, in the last year and a half. Rudy Giuliani tried to banish peep shows, strip clubs, and X-rated video outlets from the neighborhood with an ordinance that restricted the proximity of "adult entertainment" establishments to churches, schools, and each other. But as a result of court challenges, the definition of such businesses was narrowed to include only those where more than 40 percent of the merchandise is sexually explicit. "If they stock their shelves with enough copies of Bambi," a city official explains, "they can come within compliance."
It turns out there is such a strong demand for dirty DVDs and sex toys that businesses selling them can afford to pay higher rents than other tenants. "People always think it's the creeps and bums who go to these stores," says the former head of the mayor's Office of Midtown Enforcement. "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."