Times Square’s king of porn is dead

Richard Basciano
Photo: Linda Rosier/New York Daily News

Crain´s New York reports: “Richard Basciano, the Manhattan landlord once dubbed New York’s king of porn for the collection of XXX establishments he operated in Times Square, died Monday night. He was 92. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Basciano was reported to be in poor health in recent months. His death was confirmed by family member and attorney John Ehrhart, who said Basciano died “suddenly and unexpectedly.”

Basciano’s death throws into question the fate of the highly valuable real estate he owned, including a trio of rundown buildings between West 42nd and West 43rd streets along Eighth Avenue.

Retail space in two of the adjacent properties houses Basciano’s largest remaining XXX establishment, Show World Center, one of only a handful of XXX stores that remain in the Times Square neighborhood. At its seamy peak in the 1980s and ’90s, Times Square was home to dozens of such stores, and Show World was considered among the most prominent and provocative. One city official referred to it as the “flagship of the sex industry in New York.”

In recent decades, however, the neighborhood has been transformed by millions of square feet of office, residential, retail and hotel development, and the brick-and-mortar XXX business has been largely wiped out by internet pornography. Basciano said that he wanted to find more profitable and relevant uses for his buildings.

“Show World is going to close,” Basciano told Crain’s last year. “This real estate is very valuable.”

Basciano was reluctant to discuss his plans for the property in detail because he felt the media had treated him unfairly in the past.

“Statements have been made about me, but just look at my track record,” he said during the call. “I was never dishonest. We always paid our taxes and never got in trouble. I never did anything that was unkind or unfair. But we didn’t get the best press.”

But Basciano did not end up closing Show World during the final months of his life. “I don’t think he wanted to close Show World out of loyalty to the longtime employees who worked there,” said Erica Dubno, a partner at Fahringer & Dubno, a law firm that defended XXX businesses from regulation and litigation launched by the city in the 1990s to curb the porn industry. “Richard was a very savvy businessman who treated his employees wonderfully.”

Basciano was one of the chief financial backers of the Coalition for Free Expression, a group of sex-shop owners that hired Dubno and her late law partner, Herald Price Fahringer, to represent the industry in its efforts to beat back city rules to relegate XXX stores to far-flung industrial-zoned areas. The industry eventually won the right to continue operating in heavily trafficked, central locations like Times Square, provided less than 40% of the merchandise was sex-related.”

“Richard very much believed in preserving and maintaining free speech and expression,” Dubno said. “He was a strong supporter of the First Amendment.”

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