Published April 26, 2012
NEW YORK CITY – Mutilation. It’s all the rage — for middle-schoolers. Six girls, some in braces, lined up in front of a storefront on St. Marks Place after school this week.
St. Marks is the body-piercing capital of North America. If you have a child, you just might want to check her belly button.
Kids lined up in front of one of a dozen shops that ink tattoos and pierce virtually any stretch of skin on the human body, from morning until midnight.
So I asked one young lady awaiting her turn to plunk down $20 to the burly piercer, “How old are you?’’
“Twelve,’’ Debra whispered. Then she giggled.
“It’s cool,’’ she explained. “But my mom would kill me.’’
Then Debra continued shopping for a hook to stick in and out of her lip. Her young pals disappeared to get pierced in places you don’t want to think about.
Suddenly, the owner of Village Dream, a tiny shop at 3 St. Marks place, piped up.
“It’s legal!’’ he protested. “Totally legal.’’
Legal to sell a pre-pubescent a $25 hole in the navel? How about a forked tongue?
Well, guess what, New Yorkers — the man is right!
New York has a minimum age to receive a tattoo: 18. And to drink alcohol: 21.
You must be 18 to legally purchase a pack of smokes. At 16, you may apply for a learner’s permit to drive.
But the minimum age to get your skin, mouth or private parts breached by a potentially infection-causing needle: Zero.
That’s right. In this wildly regulated city, where a birdbath or shared pot of cheese is considered a dire risk by the Health Department, there is no minimum age for turning one’s body into a pincushion.
"There are no statewide regulations now in place related to body piercing,’’ said Peter Constantakes, spokesman for the state Department of Health.
Sixth- and seventh-graders are regular customers, piercing providers told me. But in the Wild West of body decoration, no records are kept. No one knows how many kids are at risk, and how young.
It’s also unknown how many kids suffer potentially permanent damage. Many hide piercings from parents. But some adults are complicit in their kids’ quest for self-alteration.
“You can get infections," said Mitchell Konevsky, manager of Addiction Tattoo on St. Marks, which turns away customers who can’t prove they’re 18.