City Proposes Less Art for Parks' Sake

Friday, April 23, 2010

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.


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Comments [2]

Gilly Youner from United States

I agree with Peter Pryor regarding the distinction between Artists, and sales persons, i think Artists should have a way to sell in certain park areas, though i do think they should be limited within certain parks, but increased on sidewalks in some other areas. Artist selling their own work on the street contributes much to NYC street life, and tourism. i do think the Highline being so narrow and confined, should be able to limit sales to certain areas to maintain free traffic flow and openness. and Brooklyn Bridge should not have any vendors at all on the pathways, too narrow for all users as it is! the areas which can benefit need to be clearly set up for art tables, booths etc.

Apr. 26 2010 11:25 AM
peter pryor from lower mahattan

as an artist , I went union sq park once because people who buy from me encouraged me to go, before I could even set up the park dept ask me to leave , one because 1, I had no table, 2. I did have this printed out paper with tax -ID ( which as an artist is just your social security number which I do have.
I sell downtown , I started because I had lost my business (2008) as a cabinet maker , my apt (2007), because I got sick W/ no ins - I was living in a shelter being robbed and lost in the system when I decided to paint on cardboard ,and paint - selling my art turned my whole life around! today I am thankful for having become homeless! as I never would of sold my work on the streets
I we have to make distinction, I saw many vendor's selling prints , crafts that were not even their own stuff, I see people selling all kinds of merchandise under the broad claim of art .,I think some clever vendor's are using the free speech and rules to protect expression just to make a buck , meanwhile , some other artist , who might benefit from selling his/ her work , can't get the space.

I know we can,t have the"art police" determine whats art , but I know the average person on the street knows the artist that are out selling work and knows the vendor's out selling stuff called art but really has nothing to do with the artist taking his/ her work to the streets . or the venders selling used books etc- or the venders selling t-shirts in the name of art.
to be fair , i am bias - I studied in NYC received an MFA , and have struggled all my life making a living with my art,- my choice -, selling on the streets has led to shows recently , and I have sold affordable art , one of a kind paintings right on the street
I know people who have walked by and just to thank me for being out there , and I have people who come to just talk , look , and enjoy art knowing that they have left feeling some enjoyment and so have I , is sometime reward enough , and maybe a future patron /supporter .
I am not sure why we can't let the artist sell in the park -and by the way I am not a vendor -I am an artist that choses to go directly to the people , its a form of networking too, that if your serious will and does led to better situations , meanwhile I can at lest work on my craft , earn a humble honest living rather then work at a min wage job with no benefits no future < selling my work means I have gotten out of the city shelter , and off the welfare lines ,
I wish I could use union sq , but now all I can see are the turf wars , and the vendors not the artist will be getting the spots !
I sell rather quietly on the corner of Broadway and Houston rather than deal with the squabbles in the park - and that to me is just another example of how the city does;t get it, if fact,

Apr. 25 2010 07:27 PM

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