Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 2005

Under Cover

Porn appeal
“Undercover” would be a good title for an appeals court ruling on April 12 that reaffirmed the city’s right to close the loopholes in zoning that regulates how and where porn shops and topless bars may operate.

But the plaintiffs who challenged the city’s 2001 tightening of the zoning law — Pussy Cat Lounge, the topless bar at 96 Greenwich St. near Rector St., was one of them — aren’t rolling over yet. They won a stay from the Appellate Division for a chance to take the case on to the Court of Appeals in Albany, the state’s highest court.

The battle lines are drawn over a 2001 amendment to a 1995 zoning — blandly known as the 60/40 rule — that regulates adult entertainment. The amendment was intended to close loopholes in a law that restricted shops that sold more than 40 percent adult goodies near residences, houses of worship or schools.

Like any good entrepreneur, the porn owners got to work whittling away at the pesky restrictions: one clever proprietor sold multiple copies of the same kids’ video. Sex toys were declared non-pornographic therapy aids — to the relief of porn lovers everywhere — and porn shops found ways to shrink the 500-ft. rule.

But then the city came up with the 2001 amendment and the porn plaintiffs were back in court, challenging the action on the grounds that the city did not conduct a new study on the impact of the tighter law on the neighborhood (they had conducted one for the 1995 law). State Supreme Court Justice Louis B. York agreed with the plaintiffs in 2003, but the city appealed.

All four judges on the Appellate Division panel, steered by Judge Eugene Nardelli, reversed Justice York’s ruling and deemed the 2001 amendment constitutional.

The panel granted a temporary stay until it decides in early May on whether to grant the plaintiffs leave to take their case to the Court of Appeals.


Tribeca by jury
There is no mistake about it: the anonymous jury that convicted renegade lawyer Lynne Stewart last February did exactly what it intended, says one Downtown juror. Juror No. 8, a 60-year-old Tribeca resident, stands by the guilty verdict that could put 65-year-old Stewart behind bars for the next 30 years. “We were sending a message. We were intending to send a message,” he told the New York Post this week. “Do not break the law. Do not conspire with terrorists.”

Juror No. 8 and fellow jurors convicted the famous Downtown lawyer of being a material witness to terrorism, fraud and filing a false statement while she represented imprisoned blind Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind.


Hardball politics
Barry Lafer, former president of the Greenwich Village Little League, said they’ve never received so many phone calls from politicians wanting to attend the league’s Opening Day ceremonies. This year, two candidates for Manhattan borough president, Assemblymember Scott Stringer and Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, attended. Lafer said the current borough president, C. Virginia Fields, had planned to attend, but didn’t show for some reason. We called Councilmember Margarita Lopez’s office to ask why she wasn’t there, but we didn’t hear back from Lopez, a candidate for borough president, by deadline. The West Side of Downtown is seen as up for grabs in the B.P. race by some political observers, and Stringer and Moskowitz’s presence would seem to indicate that. What about the Downtown Little League festivities? Too close to City Hall?


A star is born (somewhere)
Former City Council candidate and saddle shoe extraordinaire Jay Wilson told UnderCover that his 12-year-old son is starring in an art film by Iranian filmmaker Amir Naderi that will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. But all is hush hush over at Festival headquarters: Wilson wouldn’t tell us the name of the new creation.

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