Saturday, November 21, 2009

Artist Arrested on Highline, DPR's Mea Culpa

(Left): Robert Lederman's display of artwork on the High Line on Saturday afternoon.

Robert Lederman, president of the street artists rights group A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists Response To Illegal State Tactics) was arrested for selling art at the High Line esplanade from the display (left). The High Line is located in the heart of the city's art community.

The arrest was made on Saturday afternoon by Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP). It has long been established that selling art in NYC Parks is protected by law. Mr. Lederman has won 5 Federal lawsuits on street artists First Amendment rights for which millions of dollars has been paid out in legal fees and settlements. According to Mr. Lederman, he was repeatedly threatened with arrest by Friends of the High Line (FOHL) employees. FOHL did not return a call for comment.

Below is a Press Release from Robert Lederman and a follow up statement from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).

Press Release
November 21, 2009

Robert Lederman, president of the street artists’ rights group A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics) was arrested on the 14th Street section of the Highline Park on Saturday, at approximately 3:30 PM. Lederman was issued 5 summonses, handcuffed and taken to the 6th Precinct by PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers, after employees of the Highline Park called police. This is Lederman’s 42nd arrest.

Lederman was on the Highline displaying and selling original fine art prints of his NYC scenes. Between 1994 and 2001 Lederman won 5 Federal lawsuits on street artists’ First Amendment rights. Among them was a 2001 Federal Appeals court ruling (Lederman et al v Giuliani), which established that visual artists can sell in any NYC park without a license or Parks permit, based on First Amendment freedom of speech.

Summonses were issued for the following: Vending without a Park permit; failure to comply; disorderly conduct; failure to comply with directions of officers and unauthorized vending.

Lederman was released from the 6th Precinct around 6:30 PM and made the following statement:

“The Parks Department has done a very poor job of educating their employees about the legal issues involving First Amendment rights, artists and parks. Before any of these summonses were issued or any arrest was made I repeatedly explained to Highline employees and PEP officers that a court order was in effect and that artists freely and legally sold in all NYC Parks without a license or permit. I also showed them articles from the NY Times and NY Post describing this exact court order.

The wealthy people who paid to create the Highline seem to have forgotten that it is still a public park. The US Constitution remains in effect there, as do the street artists’ rights described in numerous 2nd circuit Federal Court orders. These court orders are constantly being violated by the Parks Department. This is a blatant example of contempt of court, false arrest and chilling of free speech in the name of privatization.”

Robert Lederman

The usually press-friendly Friends of the High Line refused to comment on the incident and instead left the DPR to fend for itself.

Parks Department Statement

“The High Line is a unique public space, a thin elevated corridor at less than three acres with pathways as narrow as eight feet wide in some places. Many activities are prohibited. These include biking, skateboarding, throwing a baseball or a Frisbee, or walking a dog. The High Line can receive as many as 25,000 visitors on a busy day, walking along its long linear surface surrounded by fragile new plantings. Mr. Lederman and other vendors are able to ply their trade in hundreds of New York City parks and on hundreds of miles of city streets, where visitors can linger and enjoy their wares.” —DPR Statement issued November 23, 2009.

Our prediction - All the tickets will be dismissed and Mr. Lederman will sue for false arrest and city's taxpayers will forced to pay, again.


Judge Bars Permit Requirement for Art Vendors
NY Times - August 11, 2001

NY Times on Parks Dept artist permit ruling

NY Post on street artist Federal Court ruling

Street artist Federal court rulings

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