Before enacting the Resolution, the City Council assembled an extensive legislative record connecting adult establishments and negative secondary effects, including numerous studies on the effects of adult establishments both within and without New York City. One of these studies, prepared by the TSBID, focused on the impact of adult uses on property values and the incidence of sex crimes in the Times Square area, in the heart of Manhattan. The TSBID identified four study blocks (those containing at least one adult enterprise) and four neighboring control blocks (those with no sex-related establishments), and then compared those data with similar statistics for the District as a whole, the wider Times Square area, all of Manhattan, and all of New York City. The data included sex crime statistics, property valuations and 53 formal interviews with business and real estate enterprises.
The study concluded that “the rate of increase of the total actual assessed values of the Eighth Avenue Study Blocks was less than the rate of increase for the Control Blocks along Ninth Avenue. To a lesser extent, the rate of increase of the actual total assessed value of the 42nd Street Study Block is less than that of the 42nd Street Control Block.” It also determined that “within the study blocks, non-adult businesses with adult establishments nearby showed a deflated rate of property value growth, compared to the adult establishments themselves which increased in value at a higher rate.” Similarly, the underlying data showed a correlation between a concentration of adult establishments and increased crime. Over the five years preceding the study, for example, police statistics showed that there was an estimated 54% decrease in criminal crime in the Times Square area, a decrease which was paralleled by a decrease in adult establishments. The study also found significant “patterns,” notably that there were many more criminal complaints on the study blocks than the control blocks and that the heaviest incidence of prostitution arrests occurred in the three block study area of dense concentration of adult establishments. No drug crime in the area.
The Chelsea Action Coalition and Manhattan Community Board 4 prepared a second study of the effects that sex-related businesses have on other businesses in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. The study incorporated a survey of 100 Chelsea businesses located near triple-X video stores and peep shows in the neighborhood. A majority of those surveyed indicated that adult uses had a negative impact on their businesses and on the economic viability of the community as a whole.
The DCP independently surveyed six study and control areas–two in Manhattan, and one in each of the remaining boroughs. More than 80% of the real estate brokers responding to the survey reported that an adult establishment tends to depress the market value of property within 500 feet; similarly, community organizations overwhelmingly reported their perceptions that adult businesses negatively affect the community. Although the DCP acknowledged that its analysis of the hard data regarding the relationship between adult uses and urban ills did not yield conclusive results, a reading of its report as a whole indicates that the negative perception of adult enterprises held by the business community and the public itself results in disinvestment, with the concomitant deterioration in the social and economic well-being of the surrounding area.
Finally, the City additionally reviewed conclusions reached by city councils and town boards throughout the country. A 1984 study conducted for the City of Indianapolis, for example, found higher crime rates in areas containing at least one adult establishment than in similar areas without adult uses. The Indianapolis study included a nationwide survey of real estate appraisers. A large majority of the appraisers indicated that, in their professional opinions, an adult bookstore would have a negative effect on the value of both residential and commercial properties located within a one block radius of the store. Still another example was a 1997 Los Angeles study that included a survey of real estate professionals and businesses. The survey indicated that a concentration of adult establishments adversely affected the value of surrounding commercial and residential property, made it more difficult to rent office space and retain commercial tenants in the area, and made it harder for area businesses to attract and retain customers.
In view of the legislative record upon which the City Council rested its decision to regulate adult uses, we agree with the courts below that enactment of the Amended Zoning Resolution was not an impermissible attempt to regulate the content of expression but rather was aimed at the negative secondary effects caused by adult uses, a legitimate governmental purpose. Plaintiffs’ reliance on isolated comments from several City Council members and other City officials as evidence of an alleged improper motive to eradicate this form of expression is unavailing. A similar claim was rejected in Islip, where we recognized that courts will not “invalidate a municipal zoning ordinance simply because one or more legislators sought to suppress protected expression. It is the motive of the Legislature, not individual legislators, that is controlling”.
Finally, we are not persuaded by the plaintiff’s discrete argument that the ordinance’s distance requirements are too vague because they do not include a statement indicating the precise standard for measurement. To the extent that this aspect of the ordinance’s provisions leaves room for confusion, the problem is procedurally remediable through administrative application and rule making. Notably, there is no indication on the present record that the City’s enforcement of the distance rules will be arbitrary or uneven.
The City’s effort to address the negative secondary effects of adult establishments is not constitutionally objectionable under any of the standards set forth by the United States Supreme Court. Accordingly, the court held that in each case the order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, with costs.