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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
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Topless Photos on Empire State Building Spur Suit

(CN) - The Empire State Building's management sued a photographer for $1 million, saying the photos he took of a topless model in the observatory damaged the landmark's reputation as a "safe and secure family attraction."

ESRT Empire State Building and ESRT Observatory TRS -- which own the building and operate the observatory, respectively -- say 30-year-old photographer Allen Henson snapped pictures of a bare-breasted model on Aug. 9, 2013, when the observatory was "crowded with visitors, including children."

According to the lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court, the unnamed model "removed her top and modeled for topless photos which were taken by Henson for commercial purposes."

"The incident subsequently received significant coverage in the media," the building's management claims.

It describes Henson as a photographer who "organizes and participates in photo shoots of topless women in and about locations in New York City."

However, Henson told Reuters that the photos were not part of a professional shoot.

But management says Henson and other professional photographers and filmmakers need permission to use the landmark, and their work must showcase the Empire State Building "positively, respectfully and responsibly."

Despite this requirement, Henson allegedly "engaged in an objectionable and inappropriate topless photo shoot at this family friendly attraction as part of [his] recent self-styled 'boobs around town project.'".

Henson has also photographed topless women in Central Park and in Manhattan's Peninsula Hotel, according to Reuters.

He told the news agency that he was "doing a social experiment" at the Empire State Building. He reportedly wanted to test the limits of a New York City memorandum that prevents officers from arresting women who flash their breasts in public.

The Empire State Building had to divert time and resources to deal with the "potentially dangerous situation" that Henson created, according to the lawsuit.

The owner and operator demand more than $100,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages for trespass, plus a court order permanently barring Henson from entering the Empire State Building.

They are represented by David Tannenbaum with Stern Tannenbaum & Bell in Manhattan.

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