music is blasting and the lights are dim; a lone customer rubs his hands together
anxiously waiting for the first girl to take the stage. When she finally does she is
wearing a top, perhaps to appease city authorities before the much anticipated crackdown
on strip clubs. However, a closer look reveals merely a slight g-string separating the
dancer from total bottomlessness.
Monday evenings around dinnertime are usually slow for
"Naked City," a topless and often bottomless club on Queens Boulevard in
Tribune Photo By Liz Goff
and "Naked City" two establishments on Queens Boulevard which have drawn fire
from the community and city council members.
Tribune Photo By Bryan Schwartzman
However, this was no ordinary Monday evening, as "Naked
City" and clubs like it across Queens may soon be defunct. Although appearances
suggested business as usual, there was a certain hint of gloom in the employees and the
customers that the end may soon be near.
Mayor Rudolph Giulianis proposed crackdown on sex shops
will have a significant impact on Queens, if it goes ahead as planned.On Tuesday, July 22,
a federal appeals court denied an effort by adult businesses to stop the city crackdown.
This left an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as the only way to stop the
citys pending action.
Walter McCaffrey (D-Astoria), the City Councilman who was
instrumental in the fight for a zoning ordinance on sex shops, said that of the 41
business in Queens which could be described as sex shops, 31 are in violation of the
ordinance and could be closed if the court allows the mayor to act on his threats. The
ordinance states that a sex shop cannot do business within 500 feet of schools,
residences, houses of worship, or each other.
|Employees Strut Their Stuff
Back in 1991 a Woodside resident complained to McCaffrey that
she was blocked in her driveway by automobiles surrounding "Naked City" and
could not take her sick husband to the hospital. The woman has since moved to Florida but
McCaffrey is still in the fight to close "Naked City" and shops like it.
The employees, patrons, and lawyers for "Naked
City" obviously disagree.
"This is how Nazi Germany got started, taking away one
thing at a time," said a club employee.
He said the city has done all it can to make life difficult
for the club; including a $2,000 fine for an ash tray in a no smoking room.
"The people in the neighborhood like us," he said.
Another employee said he is afraid he will not have a job to
come to, and he is worried about what will happen to the dancers.
"Some [of the dancers] have kids, they dont know
how to work a regular job," he said. "Some may go into prostitution, the
better looking ones may find other dancing jobs. I dont know what
were planing to do, maybe well go bikini. But who will actually pay to see
Uncertainty loomed along Queens Boulevard which is home to
several adult entertainment centers and X-rated video stores.
The employees of "XXX Video" at 98-35 Queens
Boulevard have said the community has never complained or protested against them, and
wonder why their job is in jeopardy.
"We dont have any more information than anybody
else, only the owner is in contact with the lawyer," an employee said.
|Highest Court Is Last Hope
Managers of the nude dance clubs Goldfingers and Wiggles
declined to speak with the Tribune, explaining that the matter was in the hands of their
It is a legal waiting game.
The Supreme Court has allowed zoning ordinances as long as
they are not too broad and do not totally prohibit the existence of the business.
Lawyers for the sex shops have argued that these criteria are
too restrictive and therefore unconstitutional, but so far this strategy has been
unsuccessful. The case has gone through state and federal courts, and in June the Second
Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city and upheld the ordinance.
Now the same court has rejected an attempt to delay the
The United States Supreme Court is the last shot for the
shops to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional. At press time, the shops
lawyers had made an emergency motion to the Supreme Court seeking to block enforcement of
At press time, the court had not ruled on the motion.
Even though much of the attention has been focused on city
hall, the battle over sex shops is very much a Queens issue involving Queens politicians
and civic groups. Councilman McCaffrey waged a war against sex shops almost
single-handedly until 1993 when Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) led a
successful protest against Runway 69, a club which sat right on Austin Street near
Continental Avenue. Since then the Council and the state Assembly, with the support of
community civic associations, have staged similar protests. But while these protests have
often generated publicity, they have rarely resulted in the closing of business.
John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) said there are many
businesses which may be effected in his district including "Goldfingers" in Rego
Park and "Nickels" on Queens Boulevard.
"What we have experienced in the last seven years is an
influx of businesses that used to occupy Times Square to major roads like Queens,
Northern, and Astoria Boulevards," said Sabini. "The only problem is that these
are near residential areas."
For years Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) has tried to
pressure a place called Ecsxxxtasy on Jamaica Avenue. Along with groups like The Queens
Village Civic Association and the Queens Braddock Civic Association, Leffler staged a
17-month protest against Ecsxxxtasy, but the business remains open.
Leffler said although the courts have ruled against the
shops, "the game is not over until the fat lady sings."
Arthur Rojas, the former president of The Queens Village
Civic Association said, "We knew this would be a war of attrition, but we are
confident there will be ultimate victory."
"This approach [of the Zoning Ordinance] will take away
these enterprises from areas with families and young children," Rojas said.
Robert Harris, President of the West Cunningham Park Civic
Association Inc. described the fight to rid residential neighborhoods of sex clubs as
"not a life or death issue, but a quality of life issue."
It seems that the tides have turned and that many of the
Queens sex shops are on the ropes.
With the Zoning Ordinance threatening to close many Queens
businesses, owners are faced with three options: closing, changing their establishment in
order to stay open, or moving elsewhere. But where in Queens will they go?
Industrial areas and highly commercial districts like Queens
Plaza in Long Island City, along with certain areas of College Point, Maspeth, and areas
surrounding Kennedy Airport are places where businesses may relocate. Will this lead to a
concentration of X-rated businesses in these areas?
"There will be no red light districts" said Adam
Faulk a spokesperson for McCaffrey.
Faulk said the clause preventing clubs from being within 500
feet of each other will prevent a concentration from occurring.
Will this make a select few X-rated shops more powerful and
charge higher prices? Those opposing their existence in residential neighborhoods did not
"Were interested in improving the quality of life
in a residential neighborhood," Faulk said.