Volume 20, Number 51 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MAY 2 - 8, 2008
Letters to the Editor

Turning youth off

To The Editor:
I want to thank the Downtown Express and Josh Rogers on covering the latest Downtown Independent Democrats meeting as well as Judge Freed’s interest in running for City Council again (news articles, April 28 – May 1, “ Downtown political club moves toward peace” and “Here comes the judge? Freed may go for broke in Council race”).

I am a student at Pace University and have lived here in Lower Manhattan for the past five years. I’ve attended a few community board meetings and have followed D.I.D. closely. I believe Mr. Rogers’ articles highlighted one of many reasons why residents my age have not grown an interest in C.B. 1, D.I.D. or any other community/political organization. It seems as though there’s always a fight, an argument or political struggle amongst our leadership. But most importantly, it appears to be a game of “musical chairs” with the same people running for the same seats, regardless if it is president of D.I.D., community board chair or City Council.          

I hope that the articles inspire readers to discuss the future of Lower Manhattan and the leadership of its community/political organizations.

Reggie Thomas

Vendor responses

To The Editor:
The letter from Councilmember Gerson’s legislative aide, Peter Pastor, is a transparent attempt at disinformation. Mr. Pastor claims Gerson’s proposed anti-street-artist vending law is, “...yet to be completed, let alone released” (Letters, April 25 – May 1, “Vendor bill still in the works”).

Mr. Pastor sent me a full draft of their proposal two weeks before they expected to submit it to the City Council. Downtown Express reported April 11 that “Gerson said the bill is still being modified but that he hopes to release it by next week.

“‘We are still dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s,’ he said. ‘There have been a few letters and we have bounced a couple of ideas off people in the community, people who are concerned.’” (News article, April 11 – 17, “Gerson hawks his vendor bill but artists paint a grim picture”).

They are trying to depict Gerson as a “First Amendment scholar” and as a man who would not harm a hair on the head of any street artist. If only that were so.

Every section of the draft for Gerson’s proposed law would, if passed, grossly violate artists’ freedom of speech. Gerson has spent his entire seven years in public office drafting this law.

Among the absurd reasons Gerson’s office uses to justify the need for this new law are, and I quote directly from my conversations with him and his aide, that:

• “The police will not enforce the existing law, so, if we give them a new law, maybe that will get their attention.”

• “Artists and vendors sometimes argue or even fight over vending spots. By assigning spots based on a lottery, they will not have to.”

• “We cannot tell what is art and what is not protected by the First Amendment. By assigning vending spots we will know who is out there.”

To say that Gerson and his aides are completely out of touch with street artists, with any concept of free speech or with any real understanding of vending, is an understatement.

Robert Lederman

President of A.R.T.I.S.T.

To The Editor:
Re “Vendor bill still in the works” (Letters, April 25 – May 1):

I am a member of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists Response To Illegal State Tactics) and a plaintiff in both federal lawsuits that established artists’ full First Amendment rights when selling art in public spaces of N.Y.C.

I can speak from experience that it’s “First Amendment scholars” that the business improvement districts and wealthy landlord groups such as the Soho Alliance elicit and groom in hopes of defeating/overcoming or circumnavigating the aforementioned federal court rulings.

In 1993-97, it was Kathryn Freed (Lower Manhattan’s former councilmember), now a civil court judge, who spearheaded the arrests/confiscation policy against street artists; categorizing us as “illegal vendors” — “They’re parasites.” (Christian Science Monitor, July 14, 1994)

In 1998-2001, it was “First Amendment scholar” Thomas Rozinski (graduate of Harvard Law School, professor of law at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Yeshiva University, and Baruch College and served seven years in the Giuliani administration as general counsel) who spearheaded the street artist arrests and confiscations in the N.Y.C. parks system.

Councilman Alan Gerson’s proposed vendor bill is the “Final Solution” to the street artist/ vendor “problem.” It is an affront that will — if passed — affect and diminish all people’s First Amendment rights, be it artists, citizens, tourists, and the free press of this city.
Knut Masco




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