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Brooklyn woman defends right to go topless

Burlesque dancer Jessica Krigsman, who was issued a summons for sunbathing topless in a Gravesend park. Photo by Alex Rud

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A Brooklyn burlesque dancer has filed suit against the New York City Police Department after she was issued a summons for sunbathing topless in a Gravesend park.

Jessica Krigsman said in her suit, filed Monday in Brooklyn Supreme Court, that she was lying topless on a bench in Calvert Vaux Park in Gravesend in July 2012. Two NYPD officers soon approached Krigsman, asking her to put her shirt back on. Krigsman contends that she informed the officers that it is legal for women to go topless in New York. One police officer, Colleen Canavan, allegedly told Krigsman to stop “mouthing off” after Krigsman pointed out a bare-chested man sitting on an adjacent bench.

Krigsman was issued a summons for “obstruction of a sitting area,” a New York Parks Department rule that prohibits individuals from using a bench or other seating area in a NYC park in any way that interferes with another’s use of the bench or seating area.

The summons was dismissed, but Krigsman insisted on continuing her fight.

In 1992, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled, in the case People v Santorelli, that to permit men to go topless but not women, violated equal protection. The case ultimately made it legal for women, as well as men, to walk around nude from the waist up.

The NYPD should know the law, Krigsman’s attorney, Stuart Jacobs, told the New York Daily News.

This is not the first time the ruling in Santorelli has been tested. In 2007, Phoenix Feely, a topless advocate and activist, won a lawsuit against the city after she was arrested for being topless in lower Manhattan. Feely was awarded $29,000.

“New York law allows female toplessless, so after the police wrongfully arrested her for going topless, Phoenix sued and won,” Nadine Gary, president of GoTopless, a women’s organization fighting for equal topless rights on the basis of gender equality, said in a statement.

The NYPD issued a memo in February reminding officers not to issue summonses to women who are nude from the waist up.

Feely has been in the news again challenging New Jersey to amend its laws to allow women the same right a men to be topless. Fined $816 for being topless on a New Jersey beach in August, Feely was arrested and subsequently released for refusing to pay the fine.

The New York City Law Department has not yet received a copy of Krigsman’s suit and was unable to comment on it.

October 9, 2013 - 4:00pm


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