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Parks Department Can’t Get Its Story Straight for web

Parks Department Can’t Get Its Story Straight for web

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Published by artistpres
Report on the 5/1/13 meeting about the NYC Parks performer rules
Report on the 5/1/13 meeting about the NYC Parks performer rules

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Published by: artistpres on May 02, 2013
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11/30/2014

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Parks Department Can’t Get Its Story Straight by Robert LedermanLast night (5/1/13) Manhattan Parks Commissioner William Castro tried his best to calmthe fears of musicians, performers and community members about a newly amended park rule that severely restricts the right to perform for donations in NYC parks.The Commissioner gave a detailed 15 minute explanation to a packed hearing beforeCommunity Board #2’s Parks Committee about the effect of the just passed amendmentto the Park Department’s “expressive matter vending regulations.”“This rule is not going to affect the musicians who come to the park to play” statedCastro. “You can perform from park benches, right next to a statue or on the grass…Youdon’t need a permit, you are not going to be asked to leave the park, you won’t get aticket. You can pass the hat, collect donations, you are fine.”15 minute video of Commissioner Castro’s statementhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm0ZRkOx06EOfficial Parks Dept statement of the new rule for performers:http://www.scribd.com/doc/139075852/Expressive-Matter-Vendors-Notice-of-AdoptionCastro went on to give detailed descriptions of how park performers will be allowed to perform everywhere in Washington Square Park, to set up tables, to vend CDs while performing and to work right next to fountains, arches and other park monuments.Earlier that same day, the Parks Department was telling a very different story.In a 75 page response brief filed earlier that morning in a First Amendment Federallawsuit about the expressive matter vending rules, Parks Department lawyers claimed that performers and visual artists were both treated equally under, and both had to follow, thesame rules. The City defendants have claimed throughout their legal submissions, insworn affidavits and in oral testimony before the court that the rules are enforced equallyagainst both visual artists and performers.The case, Lederman et al v Parks Department, is now being considered by the Secondcircuit Federal Appeals Court.From pg. 14 of the City defendant's answering brief filed May 1, 2013“In this regard, therefore, all of plaintiffs’ contentions that theCity’s disparate treatment of performers and artists demonstrates thatthe Vending Rules are not content-neutral are now moot. The fact thatartists who sell merchandise for money and artists who perform inexchange for a donation are equally subject to the Vending Rules, asthe City had originally intended, evidences the City’s effort and
 
intent to treat all expressive-matter vendors similarly.”Hundreds of artists have been excluded from parks across the city by the rules, which banartists from selling on grass or plantings; within 50 feet of a monument, fountain or arch;and require that they be a minimum distance of five feet from trees, signs, walls, benches,fences and other park furniture. Additionally, they must be set up by a curb on a park  path with a minimum pedestrian clearance of 12 feet from the outside edge of the artists’3 foot wide stand, i.e. a 15 foot wide path is required. There are almost no park paths thatare 15 feet wide or wider.In four parks, Union Square, Central Park, Battery Park and on the High Line, artists areonly allowed to vend on a very limited number of medallion marked spots located, exceptfor the High Line, completely outside the parks.Earlier this week, City Councilmember Mellisa Mark-Viverito requested the ParksDepartment to revoke the rule. The Councilmember is chair of the City Council ParksCommittee.In a related development the same evening as Commissioner Castro’s appearance, N.Y.State Assemblymember Debra J. Glick’s office delivered a letter to Community Board #2strongly protesting the performer rule. See letter here:http://www.scribd.com/doc/139076849/Glick-Letter-Anti-Park-RuleThe letter describes how a year ago Commissioner Castro gave the same assurances that performers would no longer be summonsed or banned after hundreds of summonses had been issued to performers under the rules. Many of the performers who attended lastnight’s meeting described being harassed, being threatened with arrest, ordered to leaveWashington Square Park and various other parks and being issued scores of summonsesfor illegal vending while doing the exact same activities Commissioner Castro wasdescribing as being totally legal.Commissioner Castro, who stated that he once headed the PEP (Parks EnforcementPatrol), blamed the summons blitz on an unnamed PEP officer whom Castro stated hadissued the summonses completely on his own. Performers strongly objected to Castro’sstatement that the summonses, which were issued in numerous parks by various officersacting under the direct supervision of high ranking PEP officials, were an aberration or that only one officer was involved.Park advocate Geoffrey Croft, who was closely involved in the summons blitzcontroversy in 2011, gave an impassioned defense of the PEP and strongly criticizedCommissioner Castro for blaming PEP officers for what was clearly a Parks Departmentofficial policy.A number of performers at the meeting, including famed Washington Sq Park pianistCollin Huggins and sand painter Joe Mangrum, expressed concern that they did not knowwho to believe, since the published rules for performers clearly contradicted almost every

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