City says no to anti-Republican campsite
By Lincoln Anderson
That was the word from the Parks Department last week to local activists who applied for a permit for 20,000 expected protesters to pitch tents in Tompkins Sq. Park or East River Park during the Republican National Convention.
City parks have evening curfews. That was basically the reason Megan Sheekey, a Parks spokesperson, gave for the denial of the application, which was for two weeks, from Aug. 27-Sept. 12. The convention will be from Aug. 30 Sept. 2.
We do not permit events after the parks are closed, Sheekey said.
The application, along with a $25 permit fee, was filed two weeks ago by East Village activist John Penley and Aaron Kay, also known as the Yippie Pie Man.
Penley had expected they wouldnt be notified until the last moment, but would ultimately get the permit. So he was surprised to get a call from the Parks commissioners office last Thursday morning informing him the permit had been denied.
Penley said Parks is making a mistake not providing a camping area for the droves of protesters who will descend on the city from all over without places to stay.
If they dont grant it, then Im going to wash my hands of it, said Penley. They can deal with thousands of protesters camping out unauthorized in Central Park. If they decide to change their mind and it would be in their best interest Ill be willing to work with them.
He said because of the historical nature of Central Park having been used as a camping ground during past New York City political conventions, thats where protesters will gravitate, but that theyll also likely try to sleep in parks all over the city.
Penley said he called Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, asking to meet, but Benepe never took him up on it. Penley was disappointed at the permits quick denial.
I thought they would spend a little more time considering it, he said. They probably only had [the application] for a week or so before they denied it.
Penley added that letting the protesters sleep in Tompkins Sq. Park or East River Park would boost the local economy.
We think it would be great for all the businesses on the Lower East Side, he noted, the delis, the bars.
He said if the appeal fails, then a week before the R.N.C. they will hold a 24-hour sleep-in protest outside Mayor Bloombergs Upper East Side townhouse, demanding the city open East River Park to the protesters for at least the duration of the convention.
What are the citys contingency plans for these thousands of protesters? Penley asked.
Kay, known for having pelted Phyllis Schlafly and G. Gordon Liddy with pies, said hell refrain from launching any desserts over the denial, instead pinning his hopes on Parks appeal process.
The city blew a chance of something happening in the spirit of cooperation, he said. Im not telling people to break the law, but I guess people without places to go will go to the parks.
During the 1992 Democratic Convention in New York City, Kay said, protesters had a mini-encampment near Central Parks Sheep Meadow, though Betsy Gotbaum, then Parks commissioner, had told them no.
People did it anyway and the N.Y.P.D. gave no problems, he said.
Parks spokesperson Sheekey said no camping permit was issued for Central Park for the 92 convention.
Penley said he camped in Central Park with protesters during the 1980 Democratic Convention.
Told of the activists mention of past examples of convention campouts in city parks, Sheekey responded in an e-mail: Youre telling me they said they camped in a remote area of the park 24 years ago (possibly illegally), so we should grant them a permit for a 20,000-person encampment today?