Thursday, July 30, 2009

Free Speech Flap in Asser Levy Park. DPR Deems Five People "Organized Assembly." Parks Department Gave Out "False Information" NYPD Speculates

Left: Residents were prevented from distributing fliers on two separate occasions in Asser Levy/Seaside Park in Brooklyn.

On July 16, five Brighton Beach residents were prevented by the NYPD from handing out flyers and collecting signatures in opposition to Marty Markowitz's $64 million plan to build a 8,000 seat tax paxer funded amphitheater in the middle of a residential park and community. The residents were told by the NYPD they had to go outside of Seaside Park in Brooklyn. This was the second time opponents of the plan were prevented from distributing fliers inside the park.

When contacted by Bay's New's Joe Maniscalco who witnessed the incident, Parks Department flak Phil Abramson said, “Generally, people can hand out leaflets [inside the park]. In this case, it was deemed an organized assembly which does require a permit.” 1st Amendment flap at seaside Summer Concert Series.

Mr. Abramson apparently declined to say exactly who "deemed" five people in a 7 acre park an organized assembly - Alessandro Olivieri, Adrian Benepe, Corp. Council, Marty Markowitz?

After the incident NYC Park Advocates (NYCPA) contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) who arranged a meeting the following week between NYPD's legal department and a representative from the community and NYCPA. The NYPD lawyer reaffirmed what was very clear - such activity was protected under the First Amendment and perfectly legal.

"You have absolutely every right to do that," the lawyer said before apologizing. "Most likely what happened was that we were given false information by the parks department."

It would be helpful if the Bloomberg admimisration held the parks department accountable the instructed to gave out accurate information to the press, and not to mention in this particular case to the police department. We hope this isn't the beginning of Phil Abramson's road to mimicking predecessor Jama Adam's behavior in the veracity department. We hope.

Just because the mayor does not demand accountability from the parks department doesn't mean the public feels the same way.

A thank you to the NYCLU and the NYPD's legal department for helping to solve this matter.

Read More:

1st Amendment flap at seaside Summer Concert Series - July 22, 2009