2015 Coney Island Mermaid Parade [Slideshow]

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”4″ gal_title=”2015-06-20 Coney Island Mermaid Parade”]

And now for something completely different (and slightly NSFW). Every so often, just for fun, I will post slideshows of photos I’ve taken at special events or on trips. Ever since getting my first decent camera phone, I’ve been taking a lot more photos (offering support for the maxim that “the best camera is the one that’s with you“).

As I have noted frequently on this blog, the ubiquity of cameras has created numerous challenges for parents, children, educators, and others, but every once in a while, it’s good to remind ourselves that cameras also are terrific at recording the interesting, the entertaining, and the memorable moments in our lives. This slideshow is a good example of all three.

Back in the early 1980s, Dick Zugin, the informal “Mayor of Coney Island” in southern Brooklyn NY and founder of the arts group Coney Island USA, came up with the idea of an arts parade to honor the spirit of the amusement park’s long-discontinued Mardi Gras parades. The first so-called “Mermaid Parade” took place in 1983, and has continued annually on the first Saturday closest to the start of summer, rain or shine. According to the Parade’s Web site, it was founded with 3 goals:

[I]t brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune ; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public. Unlike most parades, this one has no ethnic, religious, or commercial aims. It’s a major New York holiday invented by artists! An American version of the summer-solstice celebration, it takes pride of place with West African Water Festivals and Ancient Greek and Roman street theater. It features participants dressed in hand-made costumes based on themes and categories set by us. This creates an artistic framework on which artists can improvise, resulting in the flourishing of frivolity, dedication, pride, and personal vision that has become how New York celebrates summer.

This year’s iteration occurred on Saturday, June 20, and despite the inclement weather, was well-attended. Approximately 3,000 people marched or rolled along the parade route, which finishes up on the iconic Coney Island boardwalk. As you can see from the slideshow, marchers enthusiastically embraced the qualities of “frivolity, dedication, pride, and personal vision.”

Female toplessness is a well-established tradition in the parade, thanks in part to its artistic sensibilities, and in part to a 1992 decision by the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court), in which the Court held that New York’s Penal Law § 245.01 (prohibiting exposure of a person) did not apply to a woman appearing topless in public. People v. Santorelli, 80 N.Y.2d 875, 600 N.E.2d 232, 587 N.Y.S.2d 601 (1992).

Despite the ruling, Mayor Rudy Giuliani sent a number of cops to the 2001 parade to watch carefully for any naked breasts. Williamsburg model Amy Gunderson showed up in just a thong and green body paint and was issued a summons for violating public nudity laws. After the summons was dismissed by a Brooklyn Criminal Court judge, Gunderson filed a federal lawsuit against the city for false arrest and in 2003 accepted a settlement of $10,000. As always, the New York Daily News had the best headline about the case: “Nabbed Nude Now Will Try a Suit.”

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