Friday, June 18, 2010

Artists Sue NYC Over New Park Rules

Artist market in Union Square Park - April 18 2010.  A Federal civil rights lawsuit was filed today by two NYC street artists against the NYC Department of Parks, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Mayor Michael Bloomberg over new rules would limit the amount of artists allowed to sell in four Manhattan parks. Unless a preliminary injunction is granted the new rules will go into effect on July 19, 2010.  Artists who do not comply with the rules will be subject to summonses, confiscation and arrest.  (photos: Geoffrey Croft) Click images to enlarge.

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:

OR here:

Read More:

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

July 19.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Artists sue Mayor Bloomberg NYC Parks Department over new regulations - June 21, 2010 - By Leslie Koch

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