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Topless Photography Not Welcome at Empire State Building

The Empire State Building, one of the world's most iconic buildings, is viewed on November 30, 2011 in New York City. Malkin Holdings LLC., the family-owned company that supervises the portfolio of office properties that includes the Empire State Building, has filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission acknowledging that it may become a publicly traded company. The filing could pave the way for an Initial Public Offering, or IPO, thus making the Empire State Building part of a publicly traded real estate investment company.

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.

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images