NEW YORK (AP) — Broadway put on a very different kind of matinee on Sunday: dozens of bare-chested women and men parading down the Great White Way to Times Square.
The GoTopless Pride Parade took to the streets of midtown Manhattan to counter critics complaining about topless tip-seekers in Times Square.
Appearing bare-breasted has been legal in New York since 1992. But Mayor Bill de Blasio and police Commissioner Bill Bratton say the body-painted women in the square who take photos with tourists are a nuisance.
The mayor even suggested doing away with the pedestrian plaza at the “Crossroads of the World” — to control both the topless women trolling for tips and the costumed cartoon characters, some of whom were arrested last year for accosting non-tipping pedestrians.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the scene harkens to the pornographic “bad old Times Square” of the past.
Sunday’s parade was among dozens of such events in about 60 cities celebrating the worldwide GoTopless Day.
New York GoTopless spokeswoman Rachel Jessee said the goal is for gender equality when it comes to baring one’s chest.
Two Dutch tourists relaxing on the park grass said they didn’t understand all the fuss.
“I don’t know why they’re making such a big deal out of it,” said Paul Martin, 37, of Amsterdam. “There are more important things to worry about than nipples.”
His friend, Leonie van der Maden, agreed. “It’s ridiculous, really! I’m perfectly OK with it. But why do you need to march, if it’s already legal?”
The women were not the only flashing sight. A lineup of police vehicles with lights flashing rolled along metal barricades marking the route.
Marchers had various motives for participating.
“We are doing it because it’s liberating, it’s free, it’s something different. Why not?” said Claudia Simondi, 46, a native of Argentina working as a bartender in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Spencer Jones, 27, a Manhattan artist who’s been sketching nude models since she was 12, and later became a model herself, said being topless “never really bothered me.”
Theresa Crudo, 22, of the Bronx, even brought along her 15-month-old son. She went bare-chested — with her husband’s approval.
“Boobs are natural, you know?” she said. “I wanted to show that you can breast feed in public and do what you have to do for your child.”
But Sandy Belzer, a 61-year-old native New Yorker from Florida, was not convinced.
He said he’s “seen it all” as a former bartender at New York’s famed Copacabana club.
“But this is just a disgrace, what this city has come to,” he concluded. “What’s ‘equality for breasts”’?