Artists sue Parks Dept, Mayor, Park Commissioner
For Immediate Release:
June 18, 2010
This afternoon two NYC street artists filed a Federal civil rights
lawsuit against the NYC Department of Parks, Parks Commissioner Adrian
Benepe and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are
A.R.T.I.S.T. president Robert Lederman and A.R.T.I.S.T. member Jack
Nesbitt. The new Park rules for artists were published earlier the
same day in The City Record.
The artists are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the
enforcement of these new rules aimed at severely restricting the First
Amendment activities of artists displaying and selling visual art in
NYC Parks; specifically Union Square Park, The High Line, Battery Park
and Central Park. The plaintiffs are painters and activists who have
previously won a number of Federal lawsuits about street artists
Unless a preliminary injunction is granted the new rules will go into
effect in 30 days. Artists who do not comply with the rules will be
subject to summonses, confiscation and arrest.
Robert Lederman issued the following statement:
“For 16 years the NYC Department of Parks has been trying to eliminate
the full First Amendment rights of street artists in order to enhance
their revenue stream from vending concessions and corporate
promotions. If you examine the real causes of congestion and the real
threat to public safety in NYC Parks, it is clearly the Parks
Department’s own vending concessions, Greenmarkets, giant corporate
promotions and Holiday Gift Markets featuring hundreds of non-First
Amendment protected vendors that are the problem, not artists.
These Parks Department sponsored activities block paths, obstruct
access to benches and subways, damage trees and other Park property
and routinely deny the public full access to the exact same 4 parks
that are affected by these rules. Parks Department concessions,
special events, corporate promotions, Greenmarkets, corporate-owned
art installations and Holiday Markets are allowed to blatantly violate
every single one of these new rules. This fact alone proves that the
public safety claims invented to justify these new restrictions on
artists are completely bogus.
The Mayor and the Parks Commissioner see themselves as real estate
agents trying to get the maximum price per square foot for our public
parks. Their real agenda is not public safety. Instead, as proven by a
just published report by a front group for the Parks Department (see
link below), it is maximizing real estate values in the buildings that
surround these same parks - buildings that are owned by the very
wealthiest New Yorkers. Note that the most valuable real estate in NYC
are the buildings immediately surrounding these same 4 parks.
First Amendment-protected street artists, which they refuse to
acknowledge as even being artists - instead calling us expressive
matter vendors - are seen as an obstacle to their Park
privatization/real estate agenda.
A favorite ploy of theirs has been to use corporate-owned art
installations as a cultural-cover story to disguise the long-time
animosity they have towards street artists and free expression. We are
suing not only to protect the rights of street artists but to protect
the First Amendment rights of every New Yorker who wants to express
themselves in what the US Supreme Court has described as our
quintessential public forums; our public parks.”
Union Square Park - April 18 2010. An artist poster protesting the proposed new rules.
Link to full text of complaint:
Link to text of revised Parks Department rules for artists as
published in The City Record on June 18, 2010:
NYC sued over proposed cap on art vendors in parks:
NYC to allow a few more art vendors in parks
The Associated Press - June 18, 2010
Two street artists filed a free-speech lawsuit against New York City
on Friday in response to new regulations seeking to cap the number of
art vendors allowed in Manhattan's busiest parks.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, asks the court to
declare the proposed regulations unconstitutional and award legal fees
to the plaintiffs: Robert Lederman, the president of artist advocacy
group A.R.T.I.S.T., and artist Jack Nesbitt.
Lederman filed a similar lawsuit against the administration of
then-mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2001, winning protections for artists
selling their work in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said
his lawyer, Julie Milner.
The lawsuit argues that the city's new proposal to allow only about
120 vendors in Union Square, Battery Park, the High Line Park and
parts of Central Park seeks to circumvent that earlier ruling.
Currently, about 300 art vendors sell their work in those parks.
The lawsuit was filed Friday evening, Milner said. City Law Department
spokeswoman Kate O'Brien Ahlers said the city had not yet received a
copy but would review it thoroughly.
The city administration has said the parks have become too crowded,
and even dangerous. But the lawsuit argues that greenmarket and
holiday commercial vendors regularly create more congestion in the
parks than the artists.
The city slightly raised its proposed cap this week after opposition
to the limits from artists. The new rule is scheduled to take effect
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.