An art vender working on the High Line was attacked by a newly hired maintenance employee and hit twice in the face with a walkie-talkie, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The 52-year-old victim left the celebrated park on a stretcher and received ten stitches as a result of the attack. The incident happened at 5 p.m. last Friday, December 14, at the park's closing time.

Kenya Robinson, 32, was arrested by Park Police and brought to the 10th Pct. where he was charged with assault, according to the NYPD.

Iddi Amadu, an "expressive matter" vendor, says he was packed up and waiting for the elevator to leave the elevated esplanade park at 16th Street when the alleged assault occurred.  

"I heard some guy yelling behind me as I approached the elevator," recalled Amadu, who came to New York from Ghana, West Africa, in 1979.   

Iddi Amadu, an "expressive matter" vendor by the 16th Street elevator where he says a High Line maintenance worker prevented him from leaving the park and attacked him.  "They want to sweep it under the rug. They wanted to squash the case. They want their interests protected," he says.

The soft-spoken Amadu said he didn't think Robinson was addressing him. High Line management had told employees not to speak to vendors, who have complained about abusive treatment from personnel in the past.
"He was screaming, 'I'm talking to you. You have to listen to me when I talk to you. You're not listening, man. I told you to stop,'" Amadu said. 

A "very emotional"  Robinson told him not to leave until park patrons were off the High Line.  Amadu said he was the only person in the vicinity.

"He said there was a woman with a stroller. I looked around, and there was no one. He was just trying to harass me. 'I don't have to listen to you,' I said."

According to Amadu, the High Line employee stood in front of the elevator and blocked him from leaving.

"I said, 'Please, please, I have to go.' He pushed my cart over. I said, 'Please don't touch my painting, my property. My art is still wet. Stay away.'"

Amadu said he put his arm up to block Robinson from knocking over the cart again, but Robinson grabbed his arm.

"I said, 'Don't touch me, you have no right to touch me.'" 

Robinson quickly raised his hand over his shoulder, Amadu said.

"The next thing I knew he hit me with his walkie-talkie — bam, bam. He hit me twice, once in the mouth and once on the side of my face."

Amadu said he felt dizzy and and fell down.

"I was bleeding a lot. and I could see it on the ground."

The next day another artist saw High Line employees using a solvent to scrub the blood off the concrete.

Iddi Amadu on the High Line. 

A Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officer arrived and called for an ambulance.

Amadu, the father of two and the grandfather of a one-year-old boy, has a studio in Brooklyn, but for at least three days a week he sleeps in his truck near the High Line to help insure he gets one of the five coveted "expressive matter" vendor spots allotted daily on the High Line esplanade. 

He works in oil and acrylic and has been selling his art at the High Line for almost a year.

"They don't want the artists there. They make it clear WE don't pay THEM anything, but the vendors who work for the High Line, it's OK because they are getting the money. They make it like they are doing us a favor. We have a right to be there."

He said he's also watched High Line personnel harass homeless people and follow people who look dirty.

"They expect you to look like a Hollywood person. How can you tell someone how to dress? They think it's a private park I say It's a park, a public space." 

He said over the last year High Line employees have tried to intimidate and harass him. They have chased his customers away. They have given him the middle finger as they walk by, and he has even been challenged to fight. He said he had only seen Robinson once prior to Friday night's incident.

"He's a thug," said Amadu, who's going down to the DA's office this morning to get an order of protection against him. "He has no right to touch anyone. We don't need bullies."

While Amadu was lying on the ground bleeding, Robinson was doing push-ups a few feet away.

"He's getting ready for more fight."

One witness corroborated Amadu's story, saying Robinson was "bragging that he dropped the guy. He was proud: 'Yeah I hit him.'" 

Amadu says Robinson is friendly with one of the High Line workers who had challenged him to a fight a few months ago. That worker allegedly said he was a convicted felon. 

"He's proud of it," Amadu says. "They are all together. There's a group of them. " Amadu says he's smelled marijuana on some of them during work.    

Amadu's work on the High Line.

Amadu also claims that, while he was lying on the cold concrete ground for more than a half hour waiting for an ambulance, he was ignored by all other High Line employees, No one, he says, came to his assistance or asked about what happened, not even senior personnel like Ronnit Bendavid-Val, the vice president of park operations, and Tim Ries, visitor services manager — instead, they tried to convince the PEP officer and later the police to charge Amadu.

"They want to sweep it under the rug. They wanted to squash the case. They want their interests protected."

When the police arrived, they only conferred with High Line personnel.  One officer finally approached him while he was lying on the ground waiting for the ambulance, Amadu says, but the cop kicked his feet and lower leg.

"I was hearing, 'Wake up, go home. Get up, go home. Be a man, you had a fight and you lost.'  

"I was shocked to hear that from a police officer," says Amadu, who was dressed in a jumpsuit with paint on it. "To them I was just a simple bum. That's what they thought I was. That shouldn't be the way when it comes to justice."

That account was backed up by several witnesses, who said the police left without interviewing Amadu. The PEP officer, though, intervened, admonishing the cop who had kicked Amadu: "'Come on, you can't do that — he's hurt. He's waiting for an ambulance.'"

Friends of the High Line, which manages the publicly owned property under contract with the city, refused to answer numerous questions. The group would not address Amadu's allegations or talk about its hiring and training practices. It did release a statement:

"We take matters such as these very seriously. This matter is under review."

Artist Jake Bay had just left the High Line and was on the street when he heard Amadu scream. He quickly returned upstairs. "I saw [Amadu] lying on the ground holding his face," says Bay, who has been selling his art on the High line for the last two years. 

"He was bleeding from his mouth, and his face was swollen. He looked like he was in a daze. It's wild to think that an employee would hit him, especially with a radio. Why would someone do that? It's very hard to understand. He never would have done that to a customer. A total stranger doing that, and he's still working there.

"Artists are treated like second hand citizens in parks," he said.

Bay collected Amadu's possessions and secured them downstairs. He then rode in the ambulance with Amadu and the PEP officer to Beth Israel Hospital. During the ride, the artists say, the PEP officer received instructions on his walkie-talkie to follow procedures as if Amadu was under arrest. 

"The officer asked why I was being placed under arrest," said Amadu.

"He kept asking, 'What are the charges? What are they charging him with? He's the victim.'

"'We'll get back to you,' they responded."

Bay said he had a hard time understanding how anyone could misinterpret what transpired, much less blame the bleeding Amadu. 

"[The PEP officer] was ordered by his superior to handcuff [Amadu]. He's a victim, and he's being handcuffed. It doesn't make sense," said Bay, who added that the officer was very professional and respectful.  

Amadu spent three hours in handcuffs, first in the ambulance and then in the hospital.

"That's false imprisonment to me," Amadu said. "They were trying to cover it up so I wouldn't file a lawsuit, like I did something wrong. They didn't want the liability. They didn't want the High Line to take responsibility."

At the hospital Amadu received a CT scan and ten stitches on his upper lip. He was given medicine to help bring down the swelling on the left side of his face, and he was prescribed an antibiotic.  He said he still has headaches and fevers at night.

On Monday afternoon, A Walk In the Park saw Robinson heading toward a maintenance area with a colleague. He turned around and looked at Amadu, who was standing near the elevator where the incident occurred. Robinson laughed.

$90,000 Settlement in Arrest of High Line Artist
This wasn't the first time the High Line and PEP supervisors have had a run-in with an artist, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

On December 6, 2009, painter Robert Lederman was arrested on the High Line on the orders of then-Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and PEP supervisors. Less than 90 days later, on February 25, 2010, the City agreed to pay $90,000 to the expressive matter vendor to settle a false-arrest claim, before Lederman had even filed a lawsuit.  

Lederman claimed High Line employees were harassing him. At the time High Line officials, once again refused to comment.

A sample of Amadu's work on the High Line.