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NJ Art Gallery Battles With Community Over Nude Pink Mannequins

NBC New York logo NBC New York 5 days ago Ida Siegal
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A battle that started over pink mannequins nearly cost a woman her New Jersey business.

With its bright pink door and colorful flyers, the Dollhaus II gallery stands out on Cottage Street in Bayonne. It used to stand out even more, when an exhibit spilled outside the doorway and included two nude pink mannequins.

Folks on the largely residential block were not pleased with it, with some arguing they were inappropriate in a neighborhood that included children.

"I was personally very upset. I was told to take my mannequins down and you don’t have a permit to run a business," said Emma Louise, who owns the gallery.

The mannequins came down, but the battle with some of the neighbors escalated and Dollhaus II — Bayonne’s only art gallery — risked getting shut down altogether, over a technicality: The block is not zoned for commercial use, residential only.

"This property, as far back as 1959, has been used as a commercial space," said attorney Paul Weeks. "This is a commercial space, it’s been a commercial space for many, many years."

At a zoning hearing Monday night, the gallery fought for the right to stay open, applying for what’s called a certificate of nonconformity that essentially allows the business to be grandfathered in because the space has been used as a commercial space for decades.

Supporters of the gallery filled the city hall chamber. None of the residents opposed to the gallery showed up.

"Dollhaus II brings color, culture and creativity to Bayonne for all of its residents of all ages," said artist Eric Evan Bleich.

The zoning board granted the Dollhaus II a unanimous victory, officially granting them permission to operate on cottage street.

"I am overjoyed. I’m happy, I’m thrilled, I’m shocked, I feel so welcome I don’t feel chased out of Bayonne anymore," said Louise. "I love Bayonne, it’s a wonderful peninsula."

As for the mannequins, they will remain down for now, as that's an issue about signage. However, Louise said she’s going to see if she can get a permit to put them back up

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