The 8 Weirdest, Strangest, and Stupidest Laws in New York

New York state is one of the most culturally-diverse places in the world and, for a state as large as it is (a population of about 20.2 million), there needs to be a set of stringent rules that all New Yorkers must adhere to lest the society descends into anarchy.

However, there are a couple of rules in the state’s Constitution that border on the peculiar. For example, all businesses in the state must have enough spittoons for their employees and these must be cleaned every 24 hours. Also in the city of Buffalo, shoe shiners aren’t supposed to work on Sundays after 1:00 pm.

Below is a roundup of eight strange laws from the ‘Empire State’ that every state citizen needs to heed.

1. Bootblack stands should close on Sunday afternoons

Shoe shiners or bootblacks in Buffalo are not allowed to work within the city, for hire or gain, or permit or require any of his/her employees to engage in such work after 1:00 p.m. on any Sunday afternoon. This law was repealed July 25th, 2017.

2. Spittoons for everyone

A spittoon is a container made for spitting into, especially by people who chew and dip tobacco. There is an old law in Buffalo that requires every business owner in the city to provide a spittoon to every employee in his place of business. These containers, however, need to be cleaned every 24 hours.

When starting a business in New York, you need to understand the rules that the state imposes on businesses. Perhaps these guides on how to start an LLC in New York and how to find a great registered agent in New York can help you avoid any legal issues when opening or doing business in the state.

3. Disrobing in wagons is illegal

In the village of Sag Harbor in Long Island, it is illegal for any person to bathe in any of the waters within the corporate limits of the village unless dressed in a suitable bathing suit or covering, or to disrobe in any of the streets or public places or in any automobile or wagon in said streets.

4. Women may go topless in the New York subway

According to the New York City Transit Authority, women are allowed to be topless while riding in the subway. New York law dictates that if a man can be somewhere without a shirt, a woman gets the same right. The decision was made and effected after a group of women were arrested while testing the ordinance in the subway. 

5. Horse-blinders for men

New York used to have a law that levied a $25 fine to any man who flirts with a woman or who turns his head around and looks at a woman “in that way”. A second conviction for a crime of this magnitude calls for the violating male to be forced to wear a “pair of horse-blinders” wherever and whenever he goes outside for a stroll.

6. No pinball machines in Beacon

The city of Beacon in Northern NY has banned the use of pinball machines within the city limits. Arcades are also deemed illegal. Lawmakers believed that pinball was a “mafia-run racket” and essentially a waste of time for the youth.

7. Parachuting over New York city is illegal

Given the sheer number of urban explorers in the city, many of whom like scaling buildings, the city authority has outlawed base jumping or any sort of parachuting activity over the city except in the event of imminent danger or while under official orders from any branch of the military.

8. It’s illegal to give haircuts on Sundays

Another old law from New York city prohibited barbers from giving haircuts on “the first day of the week”. Anyone caught disobeying this law would be given a misdemeanor charge and fined $5. 


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