Volume 23, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 21 - 27, 2010
Vendors say eyes no longer on their art
BY Joseph Rearick
On Monday, July 19, the paths of Battery Park looked vastly different than they had just a day before. As the City Parks Department enacted new regulations restricting art vendors in Manhattan’s parks to a set number of specifically located spaces, the roadways leading towards the water were noticeably empty of the vendors who once congregated there to attract passing tourists.
The new regulations are being opposed in two related lawsuits brought by a few city street artists, including Robert Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T., a group of NYC art vendors who contest restrictions to their trade. But after the U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan denied the plaintiffs an injunction that would have halted the regulations slated to begin on July 19, art vendors across the City braced themselves for change.
And the change was evident in Battery Park during the first two days of regulation. As Lederman planned to protest the new rules, describing in an email to the members of A.R.T.I.S.T his intent to “defy the rules and sell art outside of the marked spaces,” a few Battery Park vendors attempted to utilize the spaces legally allotted to them. Arriving in the early morning to compete for nine spots, which the Parks Department has set up outside the park rather than along pedestrian walkways, vendors attempted to adjust to a new way of doing business.
Although many vendors who peddle their wares inside Battery Park speak little English, one agreed to discuss the new situation under the condition of anonymity because, “If I say what I feel, people will get angry.” He expressed his frustration at the city’s attempts to impose limits upon his business, describing the location of his stand as professionally untenable.
“This location they give us is sh--; it’s like 20 feet away from the people. It’s like the city is a doing this to us,” he said, extending his middle finger. “So far there’s nobody. And they’re not looking at the paintings; they’re looking at the park.”
Many other vendors have come to the same conclusion. Vendors predicted there would be intense competition for the few regulated spots from the park’s dozens of street artists when the regulations were first announced, but several of the available spots remained unoccupied on Monday and Tuesday, apparently because little business was available on the park’s exterior. In one station, placed outside the park at Battery place, only one vendor set up shop on Tuesday despite the fact that 3 spots were allocated for that area. Nonetheless, a park ranger stood by to make sure the lone vendor abided by the new rules, which were noticeably posted on the fence behind him.
“I have to go up to buses and say that there is art over here,” said the anonymous vendor, who is accustomed to a direct flow of traffic by his stand, which he once set up close to the departing terminal of the Statue of Liberty ferry. “I go up to the ferries and say, ‘Hey there is art over here, sorry it’s out of your way.’”