Department of Parks & Recreation Hearing Proposed Rules for Vending of Expressive Matter April 23, 2010

Good morning. My name is Lee Stuart and I am the Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, a citywide, independent organization dedicated to ensuring that all New Yorkers enjoy a worldclass park system. Thank you for this opportunity to testify today.

New Yorkers for Parks is in favor of the proposed rule changes regarding vendors. We base this position on the following considerations: New Yorkers for Parks advocates for safe, well-maintained and well-programmed parks in every community. We advocate for transparency and due process with respect to parks use and policies, and we support adequate funding and effective management of the Department of Parks and Recreation. With over a hundred years of experience, although by different names, in fighting for New York City’s parks and open space, New Yorkers for Parks recognizes that decisions concerning our parks, as in this case, often come down to a tension between competing uses, and we tend always to look at resolving such tensions from the perspective of the greatest good for the greatest number. We recognize that regulations applying to vendors, including vendors of expressive material, already exist, particularly relating, for example, to where they can set up relative to Parks property and monuments, walkways, or park entrances and to the permissible size of their displays. New Yorkers for Parks supports the enforcement of the existing regulations uniformly and fairly for both permitted concessions and First Amendment protected vendors. We acknowledge the right, and in fact, the duty of the Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, to regulate activities within New York City’s parks. We recognize the First Amendment protection of vendors of art and written material. The designation of a particular number of vendors in four specific parks, which are among the most heavily used by New Yorkers and tourists, is not a blanket restriction against vending of expressive material in parks. The proposed rules are not an attempt to ban artists from parks or to wreck their livelihoods. The regulations are not an attempt to destroy an important part of the fabric of New York City’s cultural richness – they are an attempt to balance uses within

specific parks. There are, after all, about 1,700 parks in New York City; only four fall under the rules restricting the number of specific sites for vendors. New Yorkers for Parks believes parks are for all people and because our public open space is so very precious, we pay particular attention to situations which tend to privatize or commercialize New York City parks. The proposed rules changes are designed to counter a situation where private and commercial activity has become a dominating presence in certain parks. We recognize the unique privileges of expressive vending. Unlike other vendors who use New York City’s parks to make their living, they do not pay a fee to use public space for their profitmaking activities. For these reasons, New Yorkers for Parks is in support of the proposed rule changes. Recommendations 1. We do recognize that the “first come, first served” allocation of specific sites might lead to conflict between vendors, and if this becomes too common an occurrence, that perhaps a lottery system might be considered for the designated locations, with a short enough rotation so that lottery winners are not granted permanent and exclusive use. 2. We would urge the Department as well to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the new rules, and after sufficient time has passed to allow the situation to be evaluated in every season, be open to adjusting them if they are found to be lacking in any way. Thank you.