Artists Protest New Limit on Vendor Spots in Parks

The sidewalks in city parks are going to have less art vendors from now on as a new regulation took effect Monday that caps the number of artists who can set up shop each day.

In response, artists protested in Battery Park, Central Park and Union Square Park.

"The city sold this nonsense to the judge that these marked spots are going to be wonderful and easy and they’ll be able to enforce it,” said Robert Lederman, 59, president of the advocacy group Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics (A.R.T.I.S.T.S.).

A group of artists had filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan, citing that the new guidelines would infringe on First Amendment rights, to keep the new guidelines from materializing, but Judge Richard Sullivan ruled on July 16 in favor of the new regulations.

About 300 vendors previously sold their art in four of Manhattan’s most popular parks, Union Square Park, the High Line, Battery Park and Central Park; now that number will dip to 140.

In a 21-page decision, Judge Sullivan explained, “This is not a case in which, for example, books and paintings that express certain messages or ideas are treated differently from books and paintings that express other, less-favored messages or ideas.” He added that the city provides plenty of alternatives for artists to sell their work.

Still, Lederman plans to appeal the decision.

“If the city’s going to spend all these millions of dollars for enforcement against artists, when women are still being raped in parks, children are being molested, branches are killing visitors to the parks -- I mean it’s ridiculous,” said Lederman at Union Square Park on Monday. “This park has over 100 homeless people that sleep here every night, gamblers, hookers; nobody is doing anything about that but they have hundreds of bullies to try to stop artists who are protected by the First Amendment from displaying and selling art.”

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