Volume 76, Number 17 | September 13 - 19, 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

A toddler is wheeled past the controversial Bleecker St. billboard.

Groans of disapproval for groin-grabbing ad

By Lori Haught

A billboard of a larger-than-life-sized man grabbing his crotch is thinking outside the box, according to Richard Golden, president and founder of SEE Eyewear. But offended Villagers are saying the man in the ad should keep it in his pants.

The billboard, which appeared in front of 312 Bleecker St. toward the end of last week, advertises the opening of Cleveland-based SEE’s first New York City location in October. It features a construction worker grabbing his groin with the slogan “I got your glasses right here!”

“New York has a strong constitution,” Golden said. “We purposefully held out for the right location in the Village, and this is it.”

However, employees at local businesses and residents are appalled by the lewd marketing pitch and SEE’s choice to place it on a public advertisement.

Graffiti reading “This is so rude” and “disgusting” quickly appeared on the sign. The street is also a high-traffic area for children, neighbors and merchants noted.

“I was kind of surprised,” said Marco Ticas of Blaustein Paint and Hardware. “A lot of school kids come around here — it is what [the graffiti] says it is.”

Amy Krosch, who works at Café Angelique, had strong opinions on the billboard, which is in clear view through the bistro’s large windows.

“That’s the kind of thing I don’t want to see everyday!” she said. “It’s really offensive; that’s the kind of man I avoid on the street.”

Yet, Idit Hen, the cafe’s manager, took a different view and said she doubted it would hurt business.

“This is the West Village,” she said. “Do you know how many weird people we have here?”

Whereas Hen hadn’t noticed the billboard until questioned about it, Krosch said she saw it when she first came in and had been trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid looking at it for the rest of her shift.

While Hen expressed indifference, everyone else felt the ad should be removed. One man, who declined to give his name, even suggested someone should cover it with spray paint.

Golden said the company was trying to have some fun, citing that the billboard is no worse then what one might see on MTV or even ESPN. He also said SEE has no intention of removing the advertisement anytime soon.

“We don’t do anything to purposefully offend anyone, but we don’t do things traditionally,” Golden said.

He also said his company is a grassroots operation, active in human rights and breast cancer research, a tradition he plans to continue in Greenwich Village. However, the store doesn’t seem to be making too many friends prior to its opening.

While Golden said they don’t plan to take the ad down, that didn’t stop some person or persons from taking matters into their own hands. On Saturday, Jessica Berk, a neighbor, reported that someone had ripped the offending groin out of the ad after someone had first spray painted over it.

“No, it wasn’t me,” Berk noted. “I have not had any interaction there.”

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