Friday, August 27, 2010

State Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Parks Dept. Over New Artist Vending Rules

"The State Supreme Court, and now the Appellate Division, have spoken, and recognized that the City’s regulations expose the artists to irreparable harm, specifically the loss of their right to freedom of expression. The regulations also violate New York State and New York City human rights law, and contradict the Local Laws and the Administrative Code of the City of New York." - Jon Schuyler Brooks, a Phillips Nizer litigation partner. 

On Wednesday, a state judge State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld issued a temporary restraining order against the City and the Parks Department from enforcing parts of the new park vending rules for artists for 5 days. According to lawyer Phillips Nizer, who's representing this group of visual artists pro bono, the TRO, forbids the Mayor and the other defendants from using the new regulations to limit number of the visual artists and the locations from which they vend. 

According to Robert Lederman, a plaintiff  another lawsuit - one of the three filed so far - the injunction prevents the Parks Dept. from enforcing the decal marked spots and the numerical limit on artists but does not prevent the City from enforcing the new restrictions in the new rules on distance from trees, monuments, benches, the width of a sidewalk and exigent circumstances.

The sides will be back in court on August 30 to hear whether the judge will extend the injunction. 

On July 19, 2010 a phalanx of Park Enforcement Officers stood guard in Union Square Park (photo above) on the first day the new artist vending rules went into effect. Seventeen Parks Department uniform security personnel were counted  near the artists protesting the new rules.  The Bloomberg administration has increasingly chosen to use the sparse resources of PEP in their its against artists working in parks instead of providing an increased uniform security presence in parks to prevent crime. (photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates.) Click on image to enlarge.


A group of artists has won a temporary restraining order against the Department of Parks and Recreation, blocking the department from enforcing part of its new rules limiting where artists can sell their First Amendment-protected material in four Manhattan parks, according to The Villager.

Under the injunction, signed on Wednesday by State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld, as of Thursday morning Aug. 26, the Parks Department will not be allowed to enforce the rules governing the designated locations and the first-come, first-served basis on which artists may vend “expressive matter.” The injunction will last at least until Monday morning Aug. 30 when Justice Schoenfeld will hear arguments and decide on the next step.

The most recent action was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan earlier this month after “expressive matter” vendors failed in the first one in federal court to obtain a preliminary injunction against the new rules.

The state court lawsuit filed by Jon S. Brooks on behalf of Artists United is similar to the first one, which is still pending despite Federal Judge Richard Sullivan’s denial of a preliminary injunction.

The new action also seeks a temporary injunction, pending a permanent ban, against the new rules that went into effect July 19, contending they are unconstitutional and have resulted in discrimination against women, the elderly and handicapped artists.

According to the rules, the artists may only vend in a specific number of spaces marked by small medallions on the pavement at Union Square Park, Battery Park, High Line Park and parts of Central Park from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the East 80s down to Columbus Circle.

The spots are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. But the new suit says it is impossible to determine which artists came first to be entitled to a space.

“Expressive-matter vendors have been spending the night on the perimeter areas of the restricted parks…and have been faced with intimidating conflicts with other expressive-matter vendors over who arrived first at particular designated spots,” the suit says. Consequently, the new rules “have resulted in a ‘survival of the fittest’ system which has a discriminatory effect on women, the elderly and the physically infirm who are unable to fairly compete with others for the designated spots,” according to court papers.

Read More:

Art vendors suit: Regs are unfair to women,  elderly,

The Villager - August 26, 2010 -  By Albert Amateau

New York Times City Room - August 26,  2010 - By Cate Doty

Bloomberg, Benepe, Parks Department And City Slapped With Temporary Restraining Order

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