…but that doesn’t make it right to run them out of one area and cluster them in another.
The City section of today’s New York Times includes an article about the transformations of Queens Plaza. Jeff Vandam, the author of the piece, describes the high crime conditions of the neighborhood into the 1980s and then includes this incredible acknowledgement that strip clubs didn’t continue to spur decline in the area when they moved in in the 90s:
“The arrival of strip clubs that had been driven out of Times Square in the 1990’s, as a result of a crackdown by the Giuliani administration, did not help the plaza’s reputation. Paradoxically, it was at that time the plaza began springing back to life.
“Crime dropped, as it did throughout the city, and police crackdowns and dogged courtroom work by the Queens district attorney’s office began to suppress prostitution. Prostitutes still show up occasionally, say people who work in the area, but a huge difference is visible between current conditions and those of a decade ago.”
A decade prior, as Vandam describes, prostitution was such a problem that “women employed by local businesses complained of being followed around by men when they left work at the end of the day.”
So, the strip clubs that moved to Queens from Manhattan did not bring with them higher crime or increases in prostitution. In fact, the overall increase in policing (and an improvement in economic conditions) were associated with what has been a dramatic decrease in crime over the last couple of decades. While I’m very glad that the Queens Plaza neighborhood has not deteriorated because of some sexually oriented businesses moving in, and I did not think that it would have, I do object to the notion that one area should be “cleaned up” at the expense of another.
The tragedy here is that if the zoning rules upheld by the state courts are enforced, many of the Queens clubs and the remaining Manhattan ones may also have to close. This will result in clubs moving into higher crime “industrial” areas of the city. A map published by the New York Times on May 31, 2006 shows clubs that would have to close under the zoning rules. This will make for less safe sexually oriented businesses, and will not be fair to the communities near them.
As I wrote in a post at the end of June, all communities ought to take full responsibility for the sexual needs of their members. Instead of trying to prevent sexually oriented businesses from opening, let’s each go out and try to recruit a strip club or a porn shop to our “downtown” areas. It’s much more honest and much more just that way!