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Intro 160 - Balancing Programming in Public Parks

  • Subject: [cg] Intro 160 - Balancing Programming in Public Parks
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 11:46:40 EDT


If you turned on your local PBS affiliate last Monday, you may have heard 
this piece on either 'Morning Edition' or 'All Things Considered' . It was 
suprised me because it included a snippet of testimony that I had given in support 
of the pro-parks Intro at the NYC Council last January. I guess it takes that 
long for a public space issue, if it is deemed important enough, to surface in 
the national media. 

 It is an interesting discussion on the use of public space, pro and con, and 
may be of interest to readers of this listserve.  For those who like to read 
legislative statements, if you e-mail me directly at Adam36055@aol.com, I can 
send you the complete text of my testimony on Intro 160.

Best wishes, 
Adam Honigman
 <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community Garden</A>

National Public Radio

All Things Considered, 
National Public Radio

June 16, 2003

Profile: New York City street vendors resist Intro 160

Edition: 8:00-9:00 PM
Estimated printed pages: 3

Article Text:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.  I'm Michele Norris.

 For years, New York City street artists have fought the city over whether 
they have a right to sell, display and make art in public spaces.  Mostly 
they've won.  But city officials say that since the September 11th attacks, vendors 
have overwhelmed the city's parks and they say it's time to rein them in with 
a new permit system.  They're pushing for a new law to do just that.  It's 
called Intro 160.  NPR's Margot Adler reports.

 MARGOT ADLER reporting:

 If you walk on Fifth Avenue near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you will 
see the art vendors.  Their tables start just left of the museum's entrance.  
They sell photographs, prints, original paintings, even Russian dolls.  Many of 
the tables sport a little yellow sign that says `Stop Intro 160.'  A French 
couple comes by and looks at two paintings by one artist.

 Unidentified Man:  Those are very beautiful.  But we are going to negotiate 
with him because he speaks very good French, and I think he's a very good 
commercial man.

 ADLER:  The vendors seem harmless enough, but at a hearing this past winter, 
the always colorful former parks commissioner, Henry Stern, said city parks 
had become sprawling Middle Eastern bazaars.

 Mr. HENRY STERN (Former New York City Parks Commissioner):  You can't get to 
see the park anymore on a nice warm day without fighting your way through 
this profusion and proliferation of commercial vendors, many of whom are selling 
things which they didn't even make themselves.  They bought it like tchotchkes 
from another merchant and they're retailers, you know, retailer of 

 ADLER:  The present parks commission, Adrian Benepe, says it isn't unusual 
to see 50 vendors on a single park path with visitors forced to walk a 
gauntlet, particularly in the parks near ground zero.  On the other side of the 
argument, there are street artists like Mark Nelson, who paints the intricate 
designs of manhole covers on pieces of cloth.

 Mr. MARK NELSON (Street Artist):  Since I paint on the street, I cannot 
paint when it rains.  I cannot paint when it's too windy because I lay the canvas 
down on the street.  So a permit system that says I can do it for this month 
wouldn't work.  I need to be able to have, and I love having, the freedom as a 
New York City street artist to be able to paint the street, embrace the street 
and celebrate the street and express my love for the city that I live in.

 ADLER:  Protests over Intro 160 took place this year led by the group 
ARTIST, Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics.  The group was founded by Robert 
Lederman, who has been involved in most of the legal fights between art 
vendors and the city.  Lederman has been arrested many times and he argues the 
current vending code has more than 60 rules; no more are needed.  He also argues 
that the city has a hidden agenda to privatize the public parks, and that one 
city park already closes for weeks for a fashion show.  `In an ideal world, a 
permit system or lottery wouldn't be so horrible,' he says, `but we've had 10 
years of bad experiences with the city.'

 Mr. ROBERT LEDERMAN (ARTIST):  We have an awful lot of day-to-day experience 
about where they want to go with this.  They basically want to, more or less, 
get rid of us, and the lottery and the permit is the way that they intend to 
do it.

 ADLER:  `The bottom line,' he says, `is we have won in the courts.' Artists 
can create and sell art anywhere on public property in New York City without a 
license.  But Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe says the courts have always 
recognized restrictions based on time, place and manner.

 Commissioner ADRIAN BENEPE (New York City Parks):  Your rights to produce a 
pamphlet and freely circulate ideas ends when you start to put up the printing 
press on the corner and block traffic, and your right to hold a demonstration 
and express your ideas ends when you want to hold that demonstration at rush 
hour on the Brooklyn Bridge.

 ADLER:  And many community activists take his side.  At one of the hearings, 
Adam Honigman of the Clinton Community Garden put it in these terms.

 Mr. ADAM HONIGMAN (Clinton Community Garden):  The idea that any non-sales 
tax-paying opportunist with a stack of cheap tourist photos, especially those 
shameful 9/11 things that are all over the city, could set up shop in our 
little slice of heaven is absolutely shameful.

 ADLER:  And those photos of the World Trade Center are everywhere.  But back 
in front of the Metropolitan Museum, Elaine Ward, a tourist from Louisiana, 
has just bought a photograph of Central Park and she's happy.

 Ms. ELAINE WARD (Tourist):  We're used to the vendors, of course, you know, 
because of the French Quarter, but this is great just to see it touch New York 
and bring back some memories with us, so...

 ADLER:  Intro 160 will be voted on by the City Council this fall. Meanwhile, 
the number of vendors is actually down right now, the result of a declining 
economy and a rainy spring.  But when asked if the problem was overstated, 
Commissioner Benepe said, `Wait for a hot summer day.' Margot Adler, NPR News, New 

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