IMG_3955fIt is of course legal for women to go topless in New York anywhere a man can, and it has been for the past 25 years. That’s true in any of the city’s parks, where men habitually relax topless in the grass or stroll shirtless on the paths…

IMG_3851…and it is also true on the streets of the city, such as the waterfront esplanades at the lower tip of Manhattan. It’s not automatically true in private establishments such as restaurants (which are free to impose a “no shoes, no shirts, no service” policy as long as it’s applied impartially), but any private establishment can permit toplessness if it wishes.

With that in mind, we thought we’d commemorate the winding down of summer with a day in which we did all three: began at midday in a downtown park, then took a long afternoon stroll along the waterside and through the streets of lower Manhattan, and finally sat down in the evening for a group dinner at a friendly establishment that didn’t mind our dining sans chemises.

IMG_4028Joining us for this very special event was our old friend Chelsea Covington, a tireless and passionate advocate for equal rights in general and topfreedom in particular.

IMG_3916Chelsea is the brave soul at the center of the legal case you may have seen in the news regarding women’s rights to go topless on the beach in Maryland. You can find out more on her blog, BreastsAreHealthy, and we very much encourage you to do so. If we haven’t already, she’ll inspire you to take that first step toward topfreedom yourself.

IMG_3938We began our adventure with Chelsea in Rockefeller Park, down at the far west end of Warren Street, with the Hudson River at our backs. At first, when there were only two of us there and he saw us taking off our tops, a park worker came up to us and erroneously claimed that we had to put our shirts back on; we told him he should consult with the police if he didn’t want to take our word for it that the law was on our side. He left.

IMG_4063Later, when there were more of us and we’d spent some time taking pictures of one another, a different park worker approached to ask if we were “doing a photo shoot.” We had the right to be topless, he acknowledged, but photo shoots require permits. We explained that we weren’t “doing a photo shoot,” we were just a group of friends, we had a visitor from out of town whom we don’t see nearly often enough, and of course we wanted to take pictures together, just like anyone else might. Was that a problem?

Well, no — he’d just gotten some complaints from a nearby group with children, and knowing that he couldn’t legally hassle us for being topless was trying desperately to come up with some other pretext for hassling us. But we know our rights and stood up to him, and eventually he left too. (At least this time no actual police showed up.)

In between those encounters, and on either side of them, we had a lovely time in the park — discussed books and politics,

IMG_3859Enjoyed the breezes off the water,

IMG_3932fAnd ate strawberries together with an avian pal.

IMG_3825fIMG_3914cIMG_4024Then the clock chimed four, and with just an hour until our dinner reservation, we began our walk. About which, more anon.

IMG_4084IMG_4095In the meantime, we’ll say this: getting hassled by park personnel is not fun — but it’s one hell of a lot better than being arrested and fined $1,000, which is what can happen to you in Ocean City, MD, if you’re a woman who exposes a nipple on the beach (but not if you’re a man). In New York, we have the law on our side and are merely exercising our rights. Chelsea is out there fighting for them. Our hats — and our tops — are off to her.

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