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 lawyer Gabriel Taussig said the city is confidant the new regulations comply with all constitutional requirements.
"They reflect a careful balance between the rights of vendors to engage in First Amendment-protected activities and the rights of the public to enjoy the city's parks and the amenities they provide," Taussig said.
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.