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Urban Communication Regulation

Communication Freedoms and Limits


Edited By Harvey Jassem and Susan J. Drucker

Cities are where the majority of people in the world live. As such, it is critically important to understand cities when seeking to address quality-of-life issues. While the concentration of people in cities presents many complex issues that warrant attention, the focus of this book is on urban communication and human interaction as regulated by municipal governments. Thirteen scholars—whose backgrounds range from community organizing, to law, telecommunication, architecture, city planning, art, policy studies, and urban communication—examine public communication venues and opportunities, all of which are impacted by municipal regulation.

Whether it is the selective funding of public art, the establishment of architectural standards for public buildings, the regulation of signage, public assembly, food trucks, or telecommunication access, the authors in Urban Communication Regulation: Communication Freedoms and Limits contend that urban policy and regulation shape communication in cities. Through zoning, funding, "private law," and a host of other means, the regulation of communication has significant impacts on the quality of life for those who live in cities. The essays in this volume focus on many of these impacts, and suggest both why and how municipal regulation can improve the quality of urban communication.

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Chapter Seven: Street Performers, the First Amendment, and New York City’s Activity Zones (Juliet Dee)


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Street Performers, the First Amendment, and New York City’s Activity Zones


University of Delaware


This chapter examines the legal issues surrounding New York City’s new law that regulates where street performers may ply their trade in Times Square. On June 21, 2016, the New York City Council passed Local Law 2016/53: “a local law to amend the Administrative Code of the City of New York, in relation to pedestrian plazas.” The official summary stated that “The bill would provide the Department of Transportation the ability to designate pedestrian plazas.” In response to this new law, the Department of Transportation then created teal (turquoise-colored) “activity zones” for costumed characters and desnudas to stand in as they ask tourists to pose for photos and hope for tips. The legal questions concern time-place-manner constraints in a public forum such as Times Square, and the legality of panhandling.


In July 2014 a non-profit trade association called the Times Square Alliance counted 76 costumed characters trolling Times Square and 150 to 200 characters in a crowded area through which 350,000 to 450,000 people pass each day (Fertig, 2015). In July 2015 a dozen “desnudas” (topless women) appeared each day wearing ← 123 | 124 → ← 124 | 125 → nothing but thongs and body paint; some of the desnudas “accosted passers-by, grabbing their arms and urging them to stop and pose” for a...

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