City Cracks Down on Performers in Parks

Monday, December 05, 2011

The stack of summonses recently received by artist Joe Mangrum (WNYC/Arun Venugopal)

Artists complained on Sunday they have been unfairly slapped with fines in city parks since the implementation of a regulation more than a year ago that prohibits them from collecting money within 50 feet of a monument or fountain.

"What I'm doing is well within casual use of the park," said pianist Colin Huggins, who said he has received nine summonses. "I think everybody knows it. All the other performers know it. Everyone in the public knows it. And I think this is a very short-sighted effort to get rid of something very beautiful in the park."
The Parks Department defended the July 2010 rule and said it is designed to ensure the park can be enjoyed by everyone.
"Our job is to try and come up with a set of delicate balance between those who want to perform and make money and those who want to come to Washington Square Park and enjoy the sounds of silence or the trees blowing in the wind," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said.

Benepe said about 20 summonses have been handed out to those who violated the rules. Fines start at $100, but penalties for repeat offenders can run into the thousands, he said.

Huggins said the $2250 he has racked up in fines is "well over" the amount of money he makes as a street performer: "So if I end up paying all these tickets, I'll be in debt," he said.

Joe Mangrum, a sidewalk artist who uses colored sand to create images, said he intends to fight the summonses in court and chided the Bloomberg administration for the restrictions.

"I don't understand why a mayor who prides himself as a patron of the arts is taking these actions against performers and artists in all the parks," Mangrum said.

Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel and attorney Ronald Kuby said on Sunday that while some performers' summonses had been dismissed, they were willing to take the matter to court if the city did not overturn the regulations.

Attorneys for the musicians and artists say the regulations fit into a broader pattern of restrictions on artists and protesters in recent months.

WNYC/Arun Venugopal
Colin Huggins has incurred $2250 in fines, playing in Washington Sq Park
WNYC/Arun Venugopal
Joe Mangrum makes sidewalk art with colored sand
Street performers Tic and Tac, aka Kareem and Tyheem Barnes say their numerous summonses have been dismissed
WNYC/Arun Venugopal
Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates, with Colin Huggins


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Comments [1]

Robert Lederman from NYC

The ticket blitz is in response to a First Amendment Federal lawsuit
by visual artists, Lederman et al v Parks Department, filed in 2010 by
2 members of ARTIST, the group representing NYC street artists.

Since 2001, when a Federal Court ruled in Lederman et al v Giuliani
that visual artists could create, display and sell visual art in all
NYC Parks, visual artists selling paintings, prints, photographs and
sculptures have been exempt from any Park permit or the need to get
permission. Contrary to the Times article, this has nothing to with
vending ankle bracelets, which is illegal in all NYC Parks.

Park Conservancies such as the Central Park Conservancy, Friends of
the High Line and Union Square Partnership BID, make millions of
dollars by renting out public parks to corporate owned Holiday Vending
markets with hundreds of vendors, such as the huge markets now
occupying Union Square, Columbus Circle and Bryant Park. Most of the
proceeds from this privatized non First Amendment protected vending on
public space go to the salaries of the conservancy directors, not to
the City.

In order to avoid our 14th Amendment equal
protection claims, the City decided that they would also have to
eliminate musicians and performers from NYC Parks.

Contrary to the Park Commissioner’s deceptive claims, the City not
only is not trying to reduce commercialism in parks, but is actually
greatly increasing it. The park rules revision was designed to make it
virtually impossible for an independent artist or performer to find
any legal location, at the same time vast sections of public property
are being turned over to corporate sponsored vendors selling jewelry
and other non-First Amendment protected merchandise in the exact
locations where artists and performers have now been banned.

Contrary to his carefully crafted public image, Mayor Bloomberg is an
enemy of free expression and of artists’ rights. He has no more
respect for visual artists and musicians than he does for protestors
or reporters, as demonstrated in the mass arrests, beatings, pepper
spraying and reporter arrests associated with the OWS protests. He
sees public parks as real estate and has given his Park Commissioner
the job of being the real estate agent who sells off our public spaces
to the highest corporate bidder.

The public should understand that the choice is not between quiet
parks with no vending or parks filled with artists and performers. The
choice is between public parks where free speech is the rule, or
privatized parks where only those with the most money are allowed to
express themselves.
Robert Lederman, President of ARTIST
(Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

Links to material on Lederman et al v Parks Department

Dec. 06 2011 09:07 AM

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