Topless Photography Not Welcome at Empire State Building

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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.