New York City

New York State Cracking Down on Times Square Topless Women

Crony capitalism and the nanny state work together to clamp down on free expression and commerce



Going topless in New York is not against the law, but the state has found a way to crack down on the topless women who have made themselves a tourist attraction in New York City's Times Square. The state's action illustrates the problems crony capitalism, the nanny state, and over-legislation can present to a free society. 

Economic activity in Times Square, one of the most famous commercial locations in all the world, actually falls under the jurisdiction of the state government, as well as the city, because it is part of the state's economic development (crony capitalism) work, as the 42nd Street Development Project. 

Because of that status, the Empire State Development corporation (ESD), the state's "chief economic development agency," can set rules for Times Square. Last week, the board of directors voted on a last minute resolution that insisted the topless women were breaking the law against disturbing the public order, because they had a "tendency" to disrupt commercial activity in Times Square. But the women are taking photos with tourists in exchange for money, isn't that a commercial activity? Of course it is, but not the kind the state's cronyist development agency is interested in. 

Lawyers at the ESD insist the agency is not against free speech. Via Politico New York

"For very clear First Amendment reasons, and reasons of freedom of expression, we are not trying to regulate content," [ESD senior counsel Robin] Stout said, adding, "it is the secondary effects of potential artistic expression which is the focus of today's clarification." 

Here's some artistic expression for Stout: fuck off, slaver. Hope it doesn't have "secondary effects." Stout's argument, of course, is bullshit, and hardly a new kind. Bureaucrats around the country have looked for clever ways to excuse limiting free expression without admitting that's what the intention was. The tendency for government officials to draw lines separating artistic expression and commercial activity is troubling too, and not based on reality, where artistic expression is often coupled with commerical activity. The "starving artist" is not a sustainable model. 

Civil liberties experts argue the state agency got it wrong on the topless performers in Times Square. Politico New York quotes Norman Siegel, the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union: 

"Governor Cuomo and the New York State Urban Development Corporation misconstrue the law pertaining to public order," he said. "Each of the sections they cite in their resolution require individual behavior that violates the penal law. The law does not provide the government with an umbrella to scoop individual people up." 

"It's surprising and disappointing that this resolution actually passed," he said. "This is not really thoughtful legal analysis." 

Siegel's got a long career in advocating for civil liberties in New York City, so while he is certainly allowed to still be disappointed by local and state government officials, they shouldn't surprise him anymore. While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio may adopt the mantra of "black lives matter" to improve his electoral prospects, he and Cuomo's tendency to want to crack down aggressively on peaceful people soliciting donations in exchange for entertaining tourists in Times Square, a location to which tourists flock in order to be entertained, betrays the fundamental paradox between progressive, big government politics and the movement to limit police and state violence. No display of solidarity, no amount of rhetoric or good intentions, can make that paradox go away.

h/t Brandon Muir

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  1. “What do we want? Boo! Bees! When do we want them? Now!”

  2. How long has The Naked Cowboy been in Times Square?

    It’s been at least since the 1990s.

    Why didn’t the Empire State Development Corporation go after the Naked Cowboy?

    If they exclusively go after women who are impacting economic activity, then they aren’t just going after those women for impacting economic activity.

    They’re going after them because they’re women, and they want to inflict their prudish mores on women.

    1. Fuckin’ War on teh Wimminz, brah. S’up with that shit?

      1. The progressives in NYC need to hear all about it, too.

        Leaving that part of the progressive battlefield unattacked is a major strategic blunder.

        1. I am sure hhe progressives in NYC are getting their guys DeBlasio and Cuomo on it right now…oh, wait.

          1. Exactly, which is why the royal we–everyone who despises progressives–should be hitting progressives over the head with the sexism of their leaders.

            You know, pointing out disgusting and stupid sexism isn’t a progressives issue.

            Certainly not just because progressives use sexism as a bullshit excuse to justify their progressive policies.

            When progressives take the side of objectively racist, pro-police policies, we should call the progressives out for their racism, too. Being against the drug war because it’s racist is an excellent reason to oppose progressive politicians who support the drug war because they’re cronies of the police unions.

            And being against prudish sexism is an excellent reason to oppose progressive politicians in New York City, too.

            Maybe one of the reasons so many swing voters think everyone who isn’t a progressive is a racist or a sexist is because we consistently fail to call out sexism and racism when we see it–and use it to our advantage.

            1. But in progressive logic, topless women are a result of the patriarchy oppressing them. As long as men are in positions of power, women should never be topless.

              1. It’s not the progressives we’re trying to persuade.

                It’s the people who hear them and could swing either way.

                They call us misogynists, and we deny it. That isn’t enough.

                They practice misogyny, we need to call it out.

                Those pathetic, misogynistic, progressives!

              2. What if they’re breast feeding?

              3. Nudity is an expression of the art of the human form! We have pushed the mammary gland bigotry to the point that these women, not practicing any lewd acts, are being restricted. My fellow Christians (and all of the other religions that do act this way!) should be teaching their boys that exposed breasts are not such a big deal, requiring that men go, ape, crazy over seeing a nude breast! Then, it might be easier if they were not considered sex objects, but valuable members of society, first! I think it is stupid behavior. Then again, my wife complains I am not a boob man She has the best money can buy!

          2. Guys, I hate progressives as much as the next person but you’re barking up the wrong tree. This campaign is being propelled by the 1%ers up in the new Times Square towers.

            1. And the NYT editorial board is pro-desnudas.

            2. Eh, it isn’t their hearts or minds we’re tying to persuade.

              We can’t leave them free reign on those issues.

    2. Why didn’t the Empire State Development Corporation go after the Naked Cowboy?

      Because he isn’t actually naked?

      1. Not completely. But you can see his nipples!

    3. It’s publicity-driven. Somehow somebody got the media ball rolling just now. Like attacks of “glass pox”, wherein suddenly people notice a lot of pock marks in windows, windshields, etc.

  3. I’m counting this as a repeat since you had another article on the same subject late last week.


  4. I’m all for topless women in whatever context. But why the hell is Times Square such a thing? I remember wondering the first time I actually went there why the hell a big intersection with some light-up signs was such an attraction.

    1. Rubes. They only know about three things concerning NYC and Times Square is high on the list and cheap compared to a Broadway show and easier than the Statue of Liberty.

    2. It’s a thing because of people like these topless women.

    3. I feel the same about most touristy things. Why in the world would I go to a crowded city when I can go swim in a crystal blue ocean and lounge on white sand?

      1. Beaches aren’t touristy?

        1. Well, I said most. And I’m distinguishing between man-made and natural.

          1. “And I’m distinguishing between man-made and natural.”

            Boobs? Or beaches?

            1. man-made

              Check your testicular privilege!

      2. The food. The shopping. The theater. The night life.

        1. The chance to have a gay encounter without everyone in Otisville knowing your business.

    4. I dunno. Some of these women would look much better with their clothes on. Not that I want to ban them from going topless, but I do want to keep my lunch.

        1. I say yes.


        2. That mugshot is supes cray.

          So, would.

      1. Not that I want to ban them from going topless, but I do want to keep my lunch.

        I lol-choked at the rob-roy mask.

      2. Naked ugly people don’t bother me.

    5. You can wonder the same thing about Venice in LA.

      When China went communist and closed its doors to the outside world, it was right when GM was pushing Buick as a luxury brand. Decades later, when communism went out the window, and the Chinese started getting rich? They all wanted to buy a Buick.

      You know how we say something is the “Cadillac of [insert product category]”? That’s what the Chinese used to say about Buick. When GM was under reorganization, and the government regulators were telling them they had too many brands, GM defended Buick to the wall–saying it was one of the most trusted, popular, and well known brand names in their most important growing market–China.

      Now they’re trying to sell Buick as a luxury brand in the U.S.

      Why do people from the Midwest want to go to Times Square? I don’t know. Is it because they see the Window on the World on the Today Show? Why do people from the Midwest want to go to New York City at all? When they come to Los Angeles, why do they want to go to Venice Beach? When instead of seeing Beat poets, Jim Morrison or Darby Crash, all they see is gangbangers, homeless people, t-shirt hawkers, etc., why aren’t they disappointed?

      1. I don’t know. It’s got something to do with branding, qualitative preferences, and group psychology, and there’s some proof in there somewhere about why we shouldn’t be allowed to inflict our own qualitative preferences on other people. It’s so hard to understand the qualitative preferences of other people–much less meet them. I guess if being an entrepreneur were easy, any politician could do it.

      2. I would go to Venice beach to check out the beefy men wearing weightlifting belts and zubaz pants workout, but that is me.

  5. New York State’s economic development agency quietly passed a resolution Thursday morning that seeks to prohibit any “behavior” that “has a tendency to disrupt commercial activity” in and around Times Square

    So does this mean the gawking tourists preventing me from efficiently walking to work last week will not be there next time I am in town? I could go for that.

    1. Ooh!

      Solicitation or other behavior that obstructs or impedes ingress to or egress from any Project building in a manner which tends or has a tendency to disrupt commercial activity at or in Project buildings

      I cannot. Motherfucking. Wait. to see people getting arrested for being fat and slow in Times Square.

      1. You really are the worst.

        1. Not that it needs to be said again – but it needs to be said again and again.

    2. I do feel sorry for people who work in and around Times Sq. What a shitshow. I think I’m there maybe once a year, usually when doing Christmas shopping.

  6. The state’s action illustrates the problems crony capitalism, the nanny state, and over-legislation can present to a free society.

    THAT’S what illustrates it? Titty policing?

    1. It hints at some of the problems I suppose, just like the, um, tips of icebergs.

      1. That’s the POINT of it, I guess. Hah!

  7. Lawyers at the ESD insist the agency is not against free speech. Via Politico New York:

    “For very clear First Amendment reasons, and reasons of freedom of expression, we are not trying to regulate content,” [ESD senior counsel Robin] Stout said, adding, “it is the secondary effects of potential artistic expression which is the focus of today’s clarification.”

    We’re not against driving, we’re only against travel. We’re not against education, we’re only against people learning things. We’re not against abortion, we’re only against operations that terminate pregnancies. We’re not against drugs, we’re only against people getting high. We’re not against sleeping, we’re only against people getting rest. We’re not against honesty, we’re only against telling the truth.

  8. alt-alt text, read in the voice of Groucho: “I’ll bet your left is no slouch, either.”

    1. “Dollars! Like in taxes!”

      “Ah! Yes! Dallas, Texas!”

  9. OT: Can we get some motherfucking TRUMP news up in here already? Jesus – it’s 11:00 Eastern already! Come on!

    1. You know, I haven’t heard anything about Lou Reid, in a while. Anybody know what he’s up to?

  10. Here’s some artistic expression for Stout: fuck off, slaver.


  11. I took a shit in Times Square once.

  12. Last week, the board of directors voted on a last minute resolution that insisted the topless women were breaking the law against disturbing the public order, because they had a “tendency” to disrupt commercial activity in Times Square.

    That would also mean that whoever goes to Times Square and buys nothing is ipso facto disturbing the public order, if “public order” is defined as commercial activity.

  13. Based on the pictures I’ve seen, the problem is obvious. These topless women are attractive. As expected, attractive topless women provide for a major distraction. If these were the usual SJW protesters, no one would notice… or care.

  14. No display of solidarity, no amount of rhetoric or good intentions, can make that paradox go away.

    Yes, but you see, the issue is not government force. It’s tits. And people – on morning news TV and such – are freaked out by tits. They must save the children from the traumatizing image of women’s tits in full view.

    At least that is what bubble-head Samantha Smith said last week on Outnumbered.

    1. It’s a safety hazard. Men, walking into light poles, cars rear-ending each other.

  15. Here’s some artistic expression for Stout: fuck off, slaver.


  16. First they came for the topless women, and i spoke the fuck up.

  17. OT – Why has Reasonable, which worked swimmingly last night, stopped displaying the little box of comment history and options in the lower right-hand corner of my browser? Is there some setting I’m missing?

    1. https breaks it. You have to drop the ‘s’ for savings.

  18. I love looking at boobs. And I am even coming around to the idea that we should not criminalize naked boobs in public. However, I still think it is a bad idea for 2 reasons:

    1) Progressives want to destroy masculinity. One way to do this is to “desexify” the sexy parts of women. If all around us are a bunch of naked boobs, then there will be no “thrill” when we do see them. What is the point of a low-cut blouse? And since women and men are no different at all, that IT ISN’T FAIR!

    2) There are many women who should NEVER, EVER bare the boobs. EVER!

    1. I meant to say that “it isn’t fair” that men can have bare chests and women can’t.

    2. Of course it’s about man-haters de-sexing their boobs. Look at the sorts of people pushing this. Also, note that the painted ladies in Times Square might as well be wearing something up there – that is the point. Women in western cultures have been artfully displaying the twins for centuries, not walking around bare-breasted, because they know that’s what turns men on.

      So: naked boobs everywhere is NOT sexy; I don’t care about all of the rest of y’all slobbering at the thought of it.

      1. “Of course it’s about man-haters de-sexing their boobs.”

        Man-haters seems a big strong. I don’t think they are mean-spirited, just naive hippies. But I agree. The thing is, even if the law changed I still think most women would choose to cover up. The only way to desexualize breasts is for everyone to participate all the time, but the temperate climate makes that impossible. If toplessness became the norm every summer, breasts would still be sexual each spring. Most women wouldn’t want to deal with that. Bikinis are feared enough.

        1. Another consideration are husbands and boyfriends. It’s easier for guys to appreciate exhibitionism when they’re not in a relationship.

          1. *is husbands. Me talk goodly

  19. The “starving artist” is not a sustainable model.

    Then explain WFMU, the station that works in practice, though not in theory.

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