Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (center), pictured with Christine Quinn, special advisor to the governor, and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on Women’s Equality Day, when she was drawn into the debate over desnudas (Photo by Grace Harman)
By Sabina Mollot
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who has made equal rights for women a focal point of her legislative career, extended that attitude to the much maligned “desnudas” or topless women in body paint who’ve been hitting up tourists for tips in Times Square.
Last Wednesday, which was Women’s Equality Day, Maloney and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, along with a handful of other female elected officials, called for the passage of the Women’s Equality Amendment. At that time, she also told a reporter from the New York Observer she thought the desnudas should be treated the same as male performers like the Naked Cowboy.
That neighborhood is part of Maloney’s district, which covers much of Manhattan’s East Side as well as part of Brooklyn and Queens. Maloney is also now a member of the mayor’s task force that was recently assembled to tackle the issues of legality surrounding the desnudas’ business practices as well as those of the costumed cartoon characters who also pose for pictures with tourists in the neighborhood.
In response to the countless news stories about topless women in body paint shilling for tips from tourists in Times Square, one response that’s been panned by pols is the idea to scrap pedestrian plazas. This was first brought up by Police Commissioner Bratton, since the Times Square plaza is where most of the complaints about professional photo bombers — both the painted women and costumed Elmos and Olafs — have been stemming from.
But while the city plans its task force to study the legality of the business being done by both groups — specifically whether these “performers’” First Amendment rights trump the rights of tourists and locals who don’t want to be accosted by them —pols have come out in defense of the plazas.
Council Member Dan Garodnick, whose district recently shifted to include the eastern half of Times Square, is one of them.
Garodnick does want the panhandling pandemonium to be addressed, though. He told Town & Village that while he’s looking at both issues, he feels it’s mostly the costumed characters rather than the painted ladies who are the bigger problem.