Norman Siegel and the A.C.L.U.: Princes of Porn

New Yorkers who miss the days when Times Square was a pornographer’s paradise of X-rated peep shows, drug dealers and prostitutes have a friend up in Albany. Seven friends, to be exact, the seven judges who sit on the state’s Court of Appeals, who have ruled that the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had been too aggressive in enforcing the city law against X-rated businesses, specifically a pornographic video store on the Upper West Side. The pornographers also owe a big thank you to Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and his so-called “civil libertarian” colleagues, who have been defending the rights of porn peddlers over the rights of average New Yorkers. It’s hard to choose which group is more obscene, the pornographers who seek to return the city to the dark ages of the 1970′s, or Mr. Siegel and his dimwit pals, who itch to file lawsuits on their behalf. The ruling is a setback for the city, especially at a time when lower crime rates, a strong economy and social optimism have opened New York’s shores anew to the international community.

The simple truth is that New Yorkers have a right to live without pornography in their backyards and along the streets where their children walk to school. Since 1998, the city has worked to shut down any enterprise that devoted 40 percent or more of its floor space to X-rated paraphernalia or nude performances. The United States Supreme Court saw the logic of the law and declined to intervene. As a result, Times Square has been transformed into a world-famous (instead of infamous) tourist attraction and a thriving home to media corporations such as Condé Nast and Viacom. Rather than making money for the pornographers, Times Square now makes money for all city residents, since large companies pay more taxes and generate far more adjacent economic activity than sleazy sex emporiums. Also, several residential neighborhoods have been liberated from sex shops and the illegal activity that accompanies them. But with the Court of Appeal’s decision, at least 30 sex-related establishments that the city ordered closed will continue to function, and others will likely attempt to throw open their doors.

City Hall says it will find a way to continue the campaign against flagrant X-rated businesses. In the meantime, the yokels up in Albany and Mr. Siegel’s “civil libertarians” are endangering the civic and economic life of New Yorkers through their reckless protection of pornographers.

Minorities Praise N.Y.P.D.

Conventional wisdom has it that this city’s African-American and Latino communities regard the New York Police Department as an occupying army forever on the verge of committing some atrocity. Professional cop haters and many media outlets would have us believe that minorities live in fear of harassment by racist police officers. The tragic police shooting of Amadou Diallo played into the hands of those who insisted that minorities could expect nothing less from the men and women in blue.

It turns out that the hatemongers have it wrong. According to a poll conducted by the respected firm of Penn, Schoen & Berland, 75 percent of African-Americans and 83 percent of Latino respondents said they respected the city’s police officers. While fewer (51 percent of African-Americans and 58 percent of Latinos) believed the police were trying to improve relations with minorities, the poll nevertheless suggests that the city’s minorities appreciate that they are among the biggest beneficiaries of New York’s reduced crime rate.

In some ways, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that African-Americans and Latinos, many of whom live in formerly high-crime neighborhoods, respect the police. Who knows better than they about the salutary effects of tough crime fighting? Their streets are safer, and many of the criminals who preyed upon them are in prison. No wonder that Police Commissioner Howard Safir finds that members of minority groups constantly demand more, not fewer, police. And last year’s appointment of Chief of Department Joseph Dunne, who had earned praise from minority leaders for his work in North Brooklyn, has clearly paid off.

Nobody is saying that the Police Department has done all it can to reach out to the city’s minority communities. The department needs to do more to recruit African-American and Latino officers. Still, the poll demonstrates that things are not nearly as bad as some self-appointed civil rights activists say they are.

The Police Department should be proud of the poll’s findings, and build on, rather than take for granted, the respect of the city’s minority community.

The Night Nothing Happened

True, perhaps New York City’s New Year’s Eve celebration was not quite as visually breathtaking as the one held in Paris, but the fact that the city passed the magic hour of midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, without so much as a whisper of computer breakdown or terrorist mayhem or crowd panic is an achievement that deserves a moment’s pause. With about 1 million people pouring into Times Square and the surrounding area, on a night when no one could really be sure whether the computer geniuses had truly solved all the potential Y2K mishaps, and in a city where the pundits had hinted, well, if something bad is going to happen, it will happen here, New York entered the new millennium with a strong sense of grace, preparedness and self-assurance. City Hall deserves credit for creating an atmosphere of reassurance and celebration. Indeed, Seattle, which just a few years ago was touted as the American city of the future, botched its own New Year’s Eve ceremony by giving into fear of a terrorist attack that never came. The costs to that city’s self-image should not be underestimated.

But in this time zone, as the Waterford crystal ball dropped and a shower of fireworks lit the trees of Central Park and the waters of the East River, New York took a look at 2000 and didn’t blink. While Mayor Giuliani is often taken to task for being something of a control freak, is there any New Yorker who is not honestly glad the Mayor had things under control that night?