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Outside, David, a year-old who lives in Chelsea he preferred not to give his last namesmokes a cigarette near the entrance as he watches men shuffle in and out of the store. Despite living in the age of hook-up apps like Grindr, many of the men who frequent the Blue Store still prefer to meet like-minded men the old-fashioned way for quick, anonymous trysts.
Other men prefer to procure the services of sex workers in an effort to fulfill their desires discreetly.
Experienced workers like David can make upwards of a few hundred dollars a day. David, who refers to himself as a hustler, is one of a small of people who make their living out of the few remaining peep shows near Times Square and Penn Station. Rising rents and a dwindling customer base have made it difficult for these businesses to survive—a problem that has plagued non-adult businesses, too. The neighboring Drama Book Shop, for instance, was forced to relocate because of a substantial rent hike. In alone, three adult videos stores along Eighth Avenue shuttered.
Presently, the rusted gates of Show World are shuttered, and scaffolding surrounds the former entrance, ifying the symbolic end of the peep show era.
But seedier elements—burlesque shows, grinder theaters, and the like—were always lurking just below the surface, and by the s, those businesses had come to define the neighborhood. Sex workers scouted for potential tricks in the crowd as street preachers shouted from their corner soapboxes proselytizing about Armageddon like deranged carnival barkers. The EFCB imposed a harsh austerity program that sent shockwaves across the five boroughs.
Vital social needs such as fire, police, and sanitation services were dramatically cut, and thousands of municipal employees were laid off. It was not until that New York City Peep shows on long island able to govern its own fiscal affairs. As early asthe Department of City Planning DCP began to study the feasibility of rezoning Times Square, and inthe city created the Special Midtown Zoning Districtintended to lure developers with a slew of tax breaks and subsidies. When it became evident that even with offers of generous subsidies, developers still had cold feet about investing in Times Square without direct intervention, city planners went back to the drawing board.
Two years later, city and state officials approved the creation of the ambitious 42nd Street Development Project. But it took more than a decade before any part of the plan could be put into effect. Under his direction, the group was able to stall the project by filing numerous lawsuits that tied the city up in Peep shows on long island for years.
But that changed inwhen then-mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani made cleaning up New York, particularly Times Square, a central tenet of his campaign. After winning the election, Giuliani was free to push hard for stricter zoning laws that prohibited adult businesses from operating within feet of a school, day care center, or house of worship, in addition to imposing the rule.
Seeing the new laws as a direct attack on their livelihood, members of the Coalition sued the city, calling the zoning unconstitutional. But they were ultimately unsuccessful: After several years of court battles, the city prevailed, and many adult establishments closed. Over the last decade, the city had largely held back from enforcing the law, since its legalities were still being ironed out in court.
But that detente ended inwhen the New York State Court of Appeals reinstated the zoning ordinance. While legal challenges and city machinations have dealt adult businesses a blow, it may be real estate that le to their ultimate demise. In contrast, the asking rents for commercial spaces on Fifth Avenue from 49th to 60th streets is down by 18 percent. And the area is within spitting distance of a of other high-traffic tourist destinations, including the High Line and the recently opened Hudson Yards megaproject.
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