Topless Photography Not Welcome at Empire State Building

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A view of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center (R-rear) as seen from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center April 30, 2012. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held at a press conference today to mark the milestone of One World Trade Center becoming the tallest building in New York. New York's skyline got a new king Tuesday after the still unfinished World Trade Center tower, built to replace the destroyed Twin Towers, crept above the venerable Empire State Building. Workers gently maneuvered a steel column into its base atop the skyscraper's skeletal top, bringing the total height to just beyond the 1,250 feet (381 meters) of the Empire State Building's observation deck. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After the NYPD reminded its officers in May that it isn't a crime for women to expose their breasts in public, photographer Allen Henson decided to field test New York's feelings on female nudity. Vaguely communist mayor aside, it seems we're pretty conservative! Though photographing topless women around town didn't result in any arrests, Henson and the models were pursued by police in Central Park and kicked out of an East Village restaurant, and two cops who participated in the project were subjected to an internal investigation. Now the consequences may be getting more serious, as the Empire State Building's management has filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against Henson alleging that a few shirtless shots at its rooftop observatory damaged the landmark's "reputation as a safe and secure family friendly tourist attraction."

The August incident involved a brunette model removing her top on the observation deck, and Henson snapping photos on his cell phone. The suit claims that the observatory was "crowded with visitors, including children" at the time, and Henson took the shots "for his own commercial purpose" without seeking permission to use the site. The Empire State Building's management claims they had to "divert management time, resources and attention to deal with the inappropriate objectionable conduct and potentially dangerous situation the defendant created."

Henson counters that the building's guards had no reaction to his "social experiment," and he wasn't holding a professional shoot. "I am a professional photographer, but that doesn't mean that every time I touch a device with a camera on it I must be conducting a photo shoot," he told Reuters. Either way, the decades-old fight to bare one's breasts in New York has gained some altitude.