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Judge Freezes Effect of NYC Sex Law

February 27, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Threatened with banishment to the outskirts of the city, strip clubs and adult bookstores celebrated Friday after a federal judge temporarily suspended an ordinance that would have forced most of them to move to desolate industrial areas.

``I got the news this morning and it’s good,″ said the manager of Manhattan’s Baby Doll Lounge who declined to give his name. ``Everybody’s thinking First Amendment.″

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum restrained the city from enforcing a law that was passed more than two years ago but had been tied up in state courts until earlier this week when a state appeals court found it constitutional.

Cedarbaum’s restraining order will remain in effect until a hearing can be held next week in federal court.

New York City has long been known for its proliferation of peep shows and strip joints that have beckoned from all corners of New York City, but primarily in spots where large numbers of tourists frequent like Times Square.

But Times Square has undergone a makeover in recent years with the arrival of theme restaurants and theater owners seeking to reel in families and tourists.

With that change has come a push to rid some parts of town of seedier elements.

In 1995, the City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting sex businesses from 500 feet of each other or near schools or houses of worship, banishing shops with X-rated movies, books and strip shows to industrial districts.

The ordinance could force as many as 150 of the 177 to move. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani planned to unleash 20 inspectors within days to begin issuing removal orders.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, who is a big supporter of the ordinance, predicted victory in the end.

``We are confident that Judge Cedarbaum is acting only out of an excess of caution,″ spokeswoman Colleen Roche said.

But Herald Fahringer, a lawyer for 107 of the businesses, said previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings clearly favored sex shops in cases where they were forced to move to less desirable areas.

He also complained about the areas where the stores are being asked to move to.

``There isn’t a theater there, not a bookstore,″ Fahringer said. ``It’s just wasteland areas they say you can go to. It’s appalling.″

The neighborhoods are home to a city Department of Sanitation office, a vehicle pound, the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, marshes, oil tank fields, rubble piles and junkyards.

Still, many prefer them there.

Yehuda Braun, 53, a real estate investor who lives across the street from the Baby Doll Lounge, pointed to the Civic Center Synagogue and its adjoining Hebrew school as being just 100 feet from the lounge.

``I’m embarrassed to walk past it,″ Braun said of the lounge, which is a short walk from City Hall.

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