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NYCLU Letter to NYC Parks Dept_4.23.10

NYCLU Letter to NYC Parks Dept_4.23.10

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Published by: Clancco: Art and Law on Apr 28, 2010
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04/28/2010

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NYCLU
125BroadStreetNewYork,NY10004(212)6073300Fax(212)6073318www.nyclu.org
EWYORKCIVILLIBERTIESUNION
Apri123,2010AlessandroG.OlivieriGeneralCounselDepartmentofParks
&
RecreationTheArsenal,CentralPark830FifthAvenueNewYork,NewYork10065Re:Revisionof§1-02and1-05Cb)ofTitle56oftheOfficialCompilationofRulesoftheCityofNewYorkDearMr.Olivieri:WewriteinresponsetotheproposaltoimposenumericallimitationsregardingthevendingofexpressivematerialatvariouslocationsunderthejurisdictionoftheNewYorkCityDepartmentofParksandRecreation.Asweunderstandtheproposal,fixedlocationsforthesaleofexpressivematerialaretobesetalongtheperimeterandatvariousvenuesinCentralPark,BatteryPark,UnionSquareParkandelevatedportionsofHighLinePark.Theselocationsaretobemadeavailableonafirst-come,first-servedbasis.Asdescribedbythe
NewYorkTimes,
ithasbeenestimatedthattheseproposalswillreduce,by75percent,thenumberofpersonswhowillengageinthevendingofexpressivematerialsattheselocations.Chen,"NewYorkSeeksLimitsonArtVendorsinPark,"
NYTimes(ApriI16,20l0).
Weoffertheseobservationswithregardtothisproposal.First,theParksDepartmenthasfailedutterlytoprovidethepublicwiththecensusinformationandutilizationdatasonecessarytoreachafairjudgmentastowhetherthelimitationscontemplatedbythisproposalare"reasonable,time,placeandmanner"measuressufficienttosatisfytheCity'sconstitutionalobligationsundertheFirstAmendment.Second,weareconcernedthatafirst-come,first-servedapproachmightnotresultinthefairallocationofwhatpromisestobeanintensecompetitionamongvendorsforscarceandlimitedlocations.Third,differentparksofferdifferentaestheticenvironmentsandcanbedesignedtoaccommodatedifferentlevelsofbustleandebullience.WeurgetheParksDepartmenttorecognizethesepotentialdifferencesasitallocateslocationsforthevendingofexpressivematerials.Weamplifytheseobservationsbelow.
<,
TheNewYorkAffiliateoftheAmericanCivilLibertiesUnion
I
ThomasFrey,President
I
DonnaLieberman,ExecutiveDirector
 
AlessandroG.OlivieriGeneralCounselDepartmentofParks
&
RecreationPage2
I.
Itiswell-establishedthatthedistributionandsaleofexpressivematerialsareprotectedbytheFirstAmendment.
Bery
v.
CityofNewYork,
97F.3d689(2
nd
Cir.1996).Accordingly,anyefforttocurtailsuchexpressiveactivity,evenifnotbaseduponthecontentofthematerialthatisbeingregulated,canbesustainedonlyifshowntobe"reasonable,time,placeandmanner"restrictionsandonlyif"narrowlytailored"toservea"significantgovernmentalinterest"andonlyiftheyleaveopen"amplealternativeopportunities"forsuchexpressiveactivity.
Clark
v.
CommunityforCreativeNon-Violence,
468U.S.288(1984);
Ward
v.
RockAgainstRacism,
491U.S.781(1989).AnyassessmentofthereasonablenessofsuchrestrictionswilldependuponacarefulevaluationofthenumberofvendorsofexpressivematerialsseekingvenuesintheCityparksandthenatureandquantityofothercompetingusesandusersofthedesiredsites.TheParksDepartmentmayormaynothavegatheredtheappropriatedataandconductedsuchanevaluation.
It
isclear,however,thattheDepartmenthasnotsharedsuchdataorsuchanassessmentwiththepublic.Thislackoftransparencyisparticularlyregrettablewhere,ashere,ithasbeenestimatedthattheproposalatissuewillreduceby75%thenumberoflocationsavailableforthevendingofexpressivematerials.Sosevereareductioninthenumberofexpressiveopportunitieswillbetreatedwithconsiderableskepticismbythevendorsandbyafair-mindedpublic.Toovercomesuchskepticism,theParksDepartmentwillneedtocomeforwardwithpowerfulevidenceandpersuasivedatatodemonstratethereasonablenessofthismeasure.Ithasnotdoneso,todate.
It
shoulddosoforthwith.II.Theproposalcontemplatesthatthedesignatedlocationsforthevendingof"expressivematerials"willbemadeavailableona"first-come,first-served"basis.Weareconcernedthatsuchasystemwillnot,intheend,functiontodistributefairlythedesignatedlocations.Suchasystempresentstheriskthatafewvendorsortheiragentswillmuscletheirwayintothemostdesirablelocationsandwillotherwiseobtainmorethantheirfairshareofsitesformorethantheirfairshareoftime.TheParksDepartmentshouldconsideralternativemethodsofdistributingthesitessuchasaweeklylotterysystemorarotatinglistofassignmentsthatassuresthat,overtime,alleligiblevendorsgainaccesstoeachofthedesignatedsites.III.Urbanparkshavelongbeenrecognizedasdemocratizinginstitutions.Theyprovideopportunitiesforsocialinteraction,communalrecreationandtheexchangeofpoliticalideas.Indeed,inrecognizingthegeographyoffreeexpressionundertheFirstAmendment,theSupremeCourthasincludedparks-alongwithstreetsandsidewalks-asthelocationsthat"haveimmemoriallybeenheldintrustfortheuseofthepublicand,timeoutofmind"havebeendevotedtoexpressiveactivitiesandhave,therefore,servedastraditionalpublicfora.
Hague
v.
CIO.,
307U.S.496,515(1939).

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