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Parks Department Trying to Get Tough With Artists

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When artist/vendor/gadfly Robert Lederman decided to set up shop on the Parks Department's internationally adored pristine prized possession, it set the wheels in motion for a battle that's finally arrived: The Parks Department has proposed new rules to keep "expressive material vendors" in line, and those folks who display and sell their art in NYC park are fighting back. The debate over an artist's right to express vs. the city's right to control public space has been going back and forth for years, with the courts usually siding with the artists. But that isn't stopping the bureaucrats from going another round. There's a public hearing on April 23rd, and if the rules are adopted they will go into effect 30 days later, just in time for the summer crowds.

There are four parks where the rules would apply, and a limited number of spots for selling art are proposed (the positions would be designated by "a numbered Department decal"). Here's the breakdown: Central Park (49 spots in various high traffic areas), Union Square (18 slots on sidewalks at the southeast and southwest corners), Battery Park (9 positions at three different sidewalk locations) and the High Line (5 spots in two locations, 2 within the 14th Street Passage and 3 at the enclosed Chelsea Market Passage). City officials say that all other park areas will remain unrestricted, and artists are free to do their thing at other locations.

According to Lederman and other artists/merchants in attendance at last night's Community Board 2 meeting, there are existing rules that would control the congestion that the city says it's trying to curb, but the regulations aren't being enforced. Parks officials acknowledge that enforcement has been less than effective, especially at the south end of Union Square, resulting in a pileup of bodies and a proliferation of vendors.

One of the biggest sticking points contained in the new rules is the "first come, first serve" provision, which artists claim would pit them against each other in an attempt to grab some real estate. The new rules mandate that, "if multiple expressive vendors attempt to vend expressive matter at any one numbered Department decal, then all such expressive matter vendors at such spot will be in violation of this section and may be directed to leave the area of that numbered Department decal immediately." In short: Art fight! Below is a look at where expressive material vendors will be able to expressively vend their materials. Get ready to hear more about this one.

· Proposed Parks Vendor Rules March 2010 []
· Artists and Vendors Bristle at Proposed Limits in Parks [City Room]
· Robert Lederman/High Line Vending coverage [Curbed]

Union Square Park

W 14th Street, New York, NY 10003