Volume 80, Number 10 | August 5 - 11, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Albert Amateau

This artists couple had “legal spots” in Union Square on Monday.

‘It’s humiliating’; Artists scramble for vending spots

By Albert Amateau

Two weeks after a federal judge denied an injunction to block new rules limiting the vending of First Amendment-protected material in four Manhattan parks, artists were still on the scene, most of them conforming to the rules they’re still trying to overturn.

In the courts, Jon Brooks, attorney for Diane Dua, who represents Artists United, one of the groups hoping to sink the new rules, filed an emergency motion in federal court to block enforcement of the rules. Brooks said he expects a hearing on the motion in the middle of this month.

Julie Milner, attorney for Robert Lederman and A.R.T.I.S.T (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics), said she was collecting evidence to refute the Department of Parks’ justification of the new rules on the grounds that art vendors create congestion and that they are not unfairly targeted by the rules.

“We have photos that show performers blocking almost the entire sidewalk, yet they are not subject to the new rules,” she said. Milner also said the first-come, first-served rule for artist-designated locations is resulting in chaos.

“We have been given video documentation that shows how artists are treated like animals when they are herded through gates at dawn and must make a mad dash to one of the spots,” she said. “It is not who is first in line but rather who is first in the race. The elderly and disabled have zero chance. The PEP [Parks Enforcement Patrol] officers can be heard laughing and ridiculing the artists running for their livelihoods,” she said.

On Monday afternoon, the 18 art vending locations designated under the new rules on the west side of Union Square Park were all occupied.

One artist, however, leaned her paintings against a retaining wall that was not a designated spot, and about 2:30 p.m. a PEP officer ordered her to take them away. The artist, a Queens resident, said she did not know about the new rules, and tried to ask the officer why she could not display her work. He did not respond but repeated that she had to move.

Also on the Union Square south plaza on Monday were six or seven chess players sitting at tables or table-size boxes inviting passersby to games.

At one of the designated Union Square art vending locations, Louis Loizos, a Queens artist, told a reporter that he no longer vends his work on weekends because there are scores of artists seeking each designated spot.

“It’s humiliating. Most of us know each other and try to respect each other, but you really have to run for a spot. Olympic games,” he quipped.

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