Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.
This week's question comes from a New Yorker who strongly supports topless painted ladies in Times Square.
It appears the Daily News has turned into a Taliban modesty squad over topless girls in Times Square. They've splashed ta-tas all over their front page this week, and even goaded the mayor into enforcing a cantaloupe crackdown. I work in a soul-sucking capitalist enterprise abutting Times Square. Seeing boobs at lunch is one of the only things keeping me going these days, and I'm concerned these tabloid tattletales are going to leave me with nothing but the guys in dirty muppet suits. This is no kind of life. Why is this happening?
Funbag Fan on Forty-First
A native New Yorker responds:
The city is facing many serious problems: the extreme lack of affordable housing and the homelessness epidemic it has produced, hundreds of people killed in traffic accidents every year, hypergentrification hollowing out our neighborhoods, infrastructure still completely unprepared for rising seas. So of course it makes sense that one of our three main daily papers would spend an entire week focused on topless girls.
The level of inconvenience caused by these "desnudas" is miniscule. In the sea of dumb spectacle that is the modern Times Square, the swarming furries, ticket-touts, and clueless tourists swinging selfie-sticks are all far worse individually and represented in far greater numbers. Why the sudden focus on these women?
Allow me to explain: the New York City papers, like the major TV and radio stations, are controlled by billionaires, and reflect their preferences and tastes. When they're not actively pushing for regressive policies like charter schools, the elimination of unions, and luxury development, they have to provide a steady stream of distraction or else the locals might begin to notice they're slowly being evicted from the city.
This takes a lot of work! Sometimes it's enough to simply spray out celebrity stories—the latest Rhianna/Beyonce feud, or Ben Affleck sex scandal. Some days pandering materialism works: did you see pictures of that apartment that's renting for $150,000/month? Or buy that new $1,500 scooter? But sometimes those methods fail and you have to go with the tried and true dark magic: when in doubt, turn those boobs out.
It doesn't matter if it's ridiculous. Most people aren't even going to read the headline; the boobs speak for themselves. For the tiny few who do, and question whether ten girls in body paint and panties present EXACTLY THE SAME LEVEL OF THREAT as a crackhead mugger trying to stab you with a hypodermic needle in 1980s Times Square, you can always get up on the high horse and say something like, "This is how it starts: first the ta-tas and then the next thing you know garbage cans are on fire and it's Fort Apache all over again."
Certainly you never have to admit that your paper is part of a concerted effort to turn a reasonably effective progressive mayor out of office after one term, or to use boobs to boost sales of a perennially bankrupt tabloid during a slow summer of local news.
The Daily News doesn't deserve all the blame for the current level of media idiocracy in New York. The other mainstream outlets have joyfully piled on—you expect that from the Post, but the Times has been carrying plenty of water for the oligarchs too. With no progressive papers left, it falls to independent outlets to question the narrative, and that's a tough job!
The mayor hasn't made it any easier. Idealistic liberals always have trouble with the disgusting power politics of our city, but de Blasio was supposed to be the best operator we had. Watching him squirm and whine when the New York Post, or The Daily News, or the Governor's Office does their thing—it's just sad. Like when the Mets are losing and their fans are blaming it on the umpire, but they know in their hearts it's just because the team doesn't have enough fight in them.
Life isn't fair. The forces of darkness are powerful. The storm clouds are gathering. The mayor can complain about it, or he can do something—hit em' hard, change the conversation. Do something bold: announce he's doubling the amount of affordable housing he'll build this year. Personally free all the carriage horses. Spent his summer vacation in The Rockaways, instead of out West. Get out there on the streets at every ribbon cutting. And for christssake, buy a treadmill for Gracie Mansion and stop giving the City Hall press corps such an easy story about how much time he spends working out at the Park Slope YMCA.
And what about the boobs? Trick question: it's a setup. Anything the mayor does—cracking down, ignoring it, telling anyone who will listen that it's a made-up story designed to distract the masses from their real oppressors—any of that just gives the Daily News cause for another story and another front page. He needs to talk about something else, loudly, or they win.
N.B. The only thing more idiotic than wasting a week of public attention on this would be using the pretext of topless women as an excuse to rip out the Times Square Plaza system that the city recently installed at great expense, and which has been very successful at calming traffic in the area. A surprising turn like that in the story is one of the hints that this might not be about boobs at all, but instead is about advancing conservative interests (such as a pro-automobile, anti-pedestrian street policy).
N.B. Steve Cuozzo at the Post has another theory on the Daily News' secret motivations: the News is owned by Mort Zuckerman, whose fortune comes from real estate development, and whose holdings include at least one large office building on Times Square. He might be concerned about the negative impact the busy plaza system has on future commercial leases, and prefer to see the plazas ripped up.
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