A public hearing on a new Parks Department proposal limiting the number of art vendors in public parks brought out advocates on both sides of the issue.
The proposal would dramatically reduce the number of vendors allowed to sell art and other printed matter in four popular Manhattan Parks — Union Square, Battery Park, the High Line Park and sections of Central Park.
Artists rallied outside before the hearing started, holding signs accusing Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Comissioner Adrian Benepe of violating the artists' First Amendment rights.
Alexandria Diaz works with the Street Vendor Project and sells art in Union Square Park. She says the proposal's "first come first serve" policy would leave many artists without any reliable income.
“People are losing their livelihoods, people have families to support," Diaz said. "If they limit these spaces ... and I don't get a spot, I cant sell anything for the day.”
Inside the hearing, supporters of the proposed rules said that vendors' stalls cause congestion and overcrowding. Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern spoke in favor of the proposal, stating that the sale of commercial art is not protected by the First Amendment, and that the new regulations may not go far enough to limit the number of vendors in the park.
Typically, about 300 art vendors operate in the four parks. The Parks Department's plan is to cut that number to 81. Officials said there's no timeline for a decision.