Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: Monday, March 26, 2001

Release #095-01

Contact: Sunny Mindel / Sid Dinsay
  Jennifer Chait (City Planning) 212-720-3225


Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today announced proposed amendments to the City's 1995 adult use zoning regulations governing the locations where "adult use establishments" can be located in the City. The law helps protect the quality of life in our City's communities by prohibiting adult businesses from locating within 500 feet of schools, places of worship, residential areas or other such adult entertainment establishments. The new amendments clarify and strengthen the current law by addressing attempts by adult establishments to remain in business at prohibited locations.

Mayor Giuliani said, "These proposed regulations strengthen the original regulations passed in 1995 and put a stop to the various ways that the operators of sex shops have found to stay in business at locations prohibited by the City's zoning regulations. They also eliminate the loopholes created by court rulings that permit topless bars to remain in operation simply by dividing their space between so-called "adult" and "non-adult".

The Mayor continued, "Sex shops can no longer evade our system of regulation through `sham' compliance. A video store that puts 50 copies of an out-of-circulation 1950's movie on its shelves and claims it is therefore in compliance with the law will no longer be able to do so. With these regulations in place, the sex shops that remain in prohibited locations will have to discontinue operations or be closed down. The goals of our 1995 regulations will be fulfilled."

City Planning Chairman Joseph B. Rose said, "These amendments affirm the City's determination to protect neighborhoods from the adverse impacts of adult entertainment businesses. The need for potential revisions to the regulations was anticipated at the time they were adopted in 1995. Today's action responds to this need and reflects our sustained commitment to protecting the City's quality of life."

Enforcement began in 1998 after 29 different judges, including the United States Supreme Court, supported the zoning law's validity. The regulations were adopted in response to a 1994 Department of City Planning study which documented that triple-x video and bookstores, adult movie theaters, and topless or nude bars have significant negative impact on a neighborhood's economic development, property values, character and safety.

In response to the City's enforcement efforts, a number of adult book and video store owners expanded their inventory of non-adult books and videos and increased the amount of floor space dedicated to non-adult material, in an effort to achieve a hyper-technical compliance with the regulations.

The courts have recognized that these superficial efforts at compliance are "sham" and do not change the intrinsic character of the establishment, but have pointed to the need to address these subterfuges through amendment of the zoning regulations. The proposed amendments address this by recognizing that, in addition to the amount of stock dedicated to adult material, physical lay-out and method of operation have a direct bearing on whether a book or video store has a predominant focus on sexually explicit materials.

In the case of topless or nude bars, the 1995 regulations restrict the locations of any "eating and drinking establishment" which "regularly features" adult entertainment. The proposed amendments affirm the original intent of the 1995 regulations by making clear that the amount of floor space occupied by the adult entertainment is irrelevant to whether the bar or restaurant is an adult use.

The proposed amendments will be referred by the City Planning Commission to the City's 59 Community Boards for review before being acted upon by the Commission and the City Council.

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