November 6, 2013
Important message to street artists
My name is Victoria Bekiempis. I am a writer at Newsweek working on a story on the Lederman appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — which could ultimately decide the fate of street artist-vendors across the country, as well as the right to depose government officials in lawsuits.
That said, I want to make sure that this story gets as prominent of placement as possible on the Newsweek website and magazine. The way I could do that is by making sure to get artists’ stories from across the U.S. I am aware that there have been crackdowns on artist vendors recently, and I would love to speak with you about your experiences. Depending on your situation – for example, if commenting would put your job at risk – I could speak with you under the condition of anonymity. Also, if you have pursued any litigation – or seen any examples of artists getting hassled by police across the country, etc. – it would be very helpful for you to send me this info.
I would love to speak with you on the phone about this; my cell, where I can be reached at any time, is 813-760-2276. However, if you have any documents or links, please send them to my personal e-mail
Thank you in advance for all your time and help. I look forward to hearing your stories and writing a story about such an important issue.
All the best,
Newsweek Staff Writer
July 29, 2013
VIOLINIST ARRESTED FOR PLAYING VIOLIN
NEW YORK CITY
See the videos at the address above.
The violinist that was arrested, Matthew Christian, is an ARTIST member.
Matthew played this exactly right, exactly as advised by the ARTIST group. He knew the law, had a copy with him, videotaped the encounter (proving their was absolutely no congestion or other situation allowing the police to clear the area) and then took the arrest rather than back down and allow his rights to be violated.
A legal guide for buskers and street performers is here:
Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T.
June 19, 2013
NYC: Goodbye Washington Square Park by Robert Lederman
The future looks very good for Washington Square Park; good that is if you are a corporation or the puppet of one. The newly formed WSP Conservancy, which advertises itself as being solely about little old ladies (and a celebrity couple) planting flowers and cleaning up trash, will soon be selling off the park to corporations anxious to use it as a billboard for their wonderful products.
The freelance musicians, artists and performers that WSP is world
famous for will soon get to see what the newly amended park rules for expressive matter vendors� were all about (hint: if you actually read the full text of the rules, rather than the fake synopsis of them provided as an FAQ, you will see that they ban performers from the entire park).
Sarah Neilson, the Senior Project Manager for the Chief of Capital
Program Management with the NYC Department of Parks, will be doing
double duty as the director of the new conservancy. Ms Neilson’s job for the Parks Department gives an exact clue as to what she will be doing as conservancy director.
Her job is to monetize our formerly public parks by selling permits
for special corporate run events and to arrange for real estate
interests to put condos in parks. She will be doing her utmost to
maximize the profit potential of what was once just nice a place for New Yorkers to hang out, listen to music or play.
The conservancy claims it was created solely in order to raise money for park maintenance. Was the Parks Department previously refusing their donations and denying them a chance to plant flowers? Of course not.
So what is the fundraising really for?
To start with, you have to pay Ms. Neilson’s six figure salary. Later on the board members will likely need a salary. Then more poorly trained PEP officers will surely have to be hired in order to evict all the performers once Ms. Neilson gets up to speed selling daily special event permits to record companies, commercial bands and corporations who want to plaster their name all over the park.
Like a decades old song about rebellion that is now being used to sell laundry detergent, the once proud symbol of the sixties will lend it’s street cred to the deceptive ad campaigns of any corporation willing to pony up a few hundred thousand for a one day permit.
Community Board #2, formerly home to ten thousand radicals, artists, jazz musicians and free thinkers, when did you become so trusting and naive that this nakedly obvious Bloomberg scam could be presented to you, voted for almost unanimously and sold to your community as a parkimprovement?
If you are not watching the store, who is? Certainly not the Mayor,
the Parks Department or Christine Quinn, all of whom are infatuated
with BIDs, Park Conservancies and park privatization.
Did you buy the absurd argument that because the budget allocation for
parks keeps shrinking, that privatization is inevitable? Have you ever
heard about cause and effect?
Don’t you realize that it is the Mayor and Quinn who keep cutting the
parks budget so that park conservancies will appear to be inevitable?
If you would like a crystal ball-like glimpse into the future of WSP,
walk a few blocks to Union Square Park (USP).
Soon in USP you’ll be able to order a $35 breakfast in the new
pavilion restaurant, buy a $10 bunch of carrots from the Greenmarket
and then purchase a shopping bag full of very expensive gifts from the
giant Holiday Market with 200 vendors. Don’t forget that those 200
vendors replaced 50 or so congestion-causing artists selling real
paintings, prints, photos and sculptures. That’s progress, right?
While the buskers and performers who currently use much of WSP for
free under the First Amendment will soon be gone, don’t worry, because
Ms. Neilson plans to book many commercially viable acts into the new
WSP. They’ll be singing the wonders of Sony, Disney, Nike and
The park will have a giant CitiBike rack; a corporate run restaurant,
and, exactly as is being done with the High Line and the more elite
areas of Central Park, the entire park will soon be available to be
rented for private parties so long as you can foot the million
dollars for one day fee.
Don’t you just love non-profit corporate charities like the Washington
Square Park Conservancy that are run by little old ladies and public
spirited celebrities? How did we ever survive without them in the
previous 300 years of NYC history before the creation of these
wonderful entities that clean our parks, staff them with police and
Without conservancies we might have to invent an agency like the Parks
Department to do this important job. We might even need a police
department to patrol parks, or a sanitation department to take away
The Bloomberg legacy. Impressive isn’t it?
Please come to Community Board 2���s meeting Thursday,
June 20th 6 p.m. 557 Broadway (Scholastic Building)
between Prince and Spring, auditorium.
Public comment begins at 6 p.m. sharp. This will be your last chance
to oppose a conservancy taking over Washington Sq Park.
May 18, 2013
Rights Vs Permits for Performers and Artists
From New York City:
Prehistoric hunters were able to kill large animals like Woolly
Mammoths by using the stampede technique. They’d create a sense of
panic in a herd, then once the herd got moving, chase them over a
cliff. It was a very effective technique for getting animals that were
too difficult to kill with wooden spears, to kill themselves.
The Parks Department is using a similar technique on performers. By
creating a park rule that places you in the category of “vendor” they
are generating panic. From panic follows the stampede over the cliff.
The “cliff” is to get performers to start demanding permits.
Rights vs permits
A right, in this context, means a Constitutional right to do
something. Visual artists and performers both have very
well-established First Amendment rights to perform for donations as
well as to create, display and sell First Amendment protected
materials (paintings, cds, dvds, sculptures, prints and written
matter) on public property. NYC Parks and streets are public property.
A permit is exactly the opposite of a right.
A permit means that you have been granted permission or authorization
to do something. Permission implies that the authorization can be
granted or taken away by whoever is in the position of approving or
denying the permit.
Virtually all free speech cases involve a restrictive permit that a
speaker (an artist, performer, political activist or religious group)
is suing to overturn.
The only reason a city creates a permit system is to be able to deny
permission. No one creates a permit system in order to “give” you
Some performers and artists, feeling panicked by the “expressive
matter vending rules,” are now trying to find a way past their
concerns by offering “solutions” to the Parks Department, the Mayor
and other City officials. The most commonly offered “solution” is to
say we’d be happy to apply for a permit to perform or sell art.
This is exactly what the Parks Department wants you to do. In fact,
one of their hidden agendas behind the “expressive matter vending
rules” is exactly this: to trick artists and performers into asking
for a permit as a way to escape the strict restrictions in the rules.
Once a permit is created, it will be sued over. The city will then use
any letters, petitions or other communications from performers or
artists who ask for a permit as evidence to use in court, proving that
the City was simply responding to what the performers and artists
You will effectively have been stampeded over the cliff. Once you are
under a permit system, you will have eliminated yourself from the
sphere of rights and from the entire sphere of public space.
Once you are under the control of permits, the city can do anything
they like to you. They can arbitrarily expand or shrink the number of
permits. They can charge any fee they like (NYC Park concession and
special event permits go for anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million a
year.) They can and do demand insurance. They can restrict what you
sell, how much you can charge and even what you can communicate.
However, the main purpose of the permit is to be able to legally deny
you any access to public space. The city’s ultimate agenda behind all
new vending proposals is privatization of all public space. By
limiting free expression, the city gets to grant speech rights to
corporations rather than leaving those rights in the hands of the
The legality of the expressive matter vending rules is right now being
decided by the 2nd circuit Federal Appeals court in Manhattan. The
court will have to base its ruling not only on the legal arguments and
the massive amount of photographic, video, and document evidence that
we’ve submitted, but on previous legal precedents in the U.S. Supreme
and Federal Appeals Courts.
The ARTIST group has won these lawsuits for the past 20 years, and
expects to win this one as well.
Please educate yourself in depth about the park rules, the hidden
agenda behind those rules and most importantly, about your rights.
Once you understand what your rights are, you will never want to
surrender them to a permit system.
April 22, 2013
From New York: New rule limits NYC’s street musicians
By MARIA ALVAREZ
A city park tradition in which musicians have performed freely in
Manhattan’s open spaces will be limited under a new rule that takes
effect May 8 and classifies them as vendors.
The rule, which includes mandating that musicians perform on 100 spots
in which a medallion is embedded in concrete, will be enforced by Park
Enforcement Patrol and NYPD officers. Violators could receive a
summons and a $250 fine.
An appeal on the new rule that labels musicians as vendors is pending
in federal court filed by Artists Response to Illegal State Tactics, a
group of 2,000 artists and musicians.
The new rule will apply in certain sections of Central Park, Battery
Park, the High Line and Union Square Park, which are popular venues
for musicians who depend on donations to earn a living.
Under the new park regulation, vendors are considered “sellers or
solicitors of donations in exchange for tangible items, such as
paintings, books, or photographs.”
Philip Abramson, a park spokesman, said, “It was always our intent
that the rules include performers and entertainers who seek donations
within the definition of an expressive matter vendor, the rules will
now state that explicitly.”
But Robert Lederman, president of ARTIST, said
“This is taking away my rights and my living.” Lederman, 62,
said the new rule “is not a clarification.” “It is about the
privatization of public space.”
He said space at Union Square Park, where artists and musicians once
performed, now is being rented to vendors.
Under the new rule, musicians will have to adhere to regulations such
as only performing on medallion spots; at least 5 feet away from a
park bench, and 50 feet from a statue.
Ian Duerr, 31, a guitar player, said the new rule “is taking away
jobs. This is not what people should be doing right now in this
Duerr, who plays with his band in Central Park, said that some
musicians are at the medallion spots at 4 a.m. “It’s terrible. The
police are constantly moving us. We play music that people want to
hear. We shouldn’t have to worry about the police.”
At Washington Square Park, saxophone player Dusty Rhodes is worried
that his coveted spot next to the 19th century statue of Italian
patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi may be taken away.
“I’m a humble musician. I play my music for New Yorkers — not for the
tourists on Times Square. My music is serious and original and the
people who listen to me know that,” he said.
There are no medallions at Washington Square Park, said Abramson. “We
do not anticipate that the clarification will have much of an impact
in this park” unless a display stand is used.
Submitted by: Robert Lederman
New York artist/activist
NY WORLD 4/9/13 by Aaron Martinez
It’s official: Free-range parks performers face fines
Buskers, jugglers, dancers, rappers and others who play for pay must
stay confined to approved areas
These days, as blues musician Demarco Evans performs in Washington
Square Park, he’s thinking about more than just hitting the perfect
chords on his guitar.
He’s worried about getting fined.
Street performers are gearing up to abide by the city’s Department of
Parks and Recreation’s strict rules for vendors who operate in city
parks, which as of May 8 will explicitly apply to them if they ask
audiences for funds.
Since 2010, the city has steered art, book and other “expressive
matter” vendors in parks to specific locations: along the curb, away
from park furniture like benches and at least 50 feet away from a
monument. In Union Square, Battery Park, the High Line and parts of
Central Park, they may work only in designated vending areas.
Now singers, rappers, jugglers, dancers and contortionists — even
human statues — will have to join them, if they perform in exchange
for a fee or a donation.
As far as the Parks Department is concerned, the performers have been
subject to the rules all along. The new change just makes it official,
following a state appellate court decision in early 2012 that found
“entertainment” isn’t automatically subject to rules restricting
“While it was always our intent that the rules include performers and
entertainers who seek donations within the definition of a expressive
matter vendor, the rules will now state that explicitly,” explained
Parks spokesman Phil Abramson.
But that doesn’t reassure Evans or other performers, who are bracing
themselves for a long, expensive summer after a yearlong reprieve.
Violations of the vending rules are a misdemeanor, and can result in a
fine of up to $1,000.
Two years ago, when the parks vending rules went into effect, Evans
was fined $250 three separate times in less than three months for
playing in Washington Square Park and Central Park.
“The city went on a crackdown on us performing anywhere near the water
fountains or statues,” recalls Evans, who has been playing guitar and
singing blues for seven years to tourists in the area. “Then after
protests for performers and activists they seemed to settle down. Now
these new rules are going to start that all up again.”
Evans anticipates another round of enforcement specifically targeted
“After we protested and had most of the public support behind us, they
just stopped fining us,” Evans said. “So recently, there have been no
problems. Who knows how bad it could get again.”
John Hendricks, who plays a drums and guitar set-up in Washington
Square Park, had a similar experience, and shares Evans’ fears. “In
2011, I was fined multiple times for playing to close to a monument
here in Washington Square,” Hendricks said. “Now, It seems like the
city is out to get us again.” And he always worries that still more
restrictions could be in store.
“This amendment may not look so bad now, but after the last few years,
I strongly believe it will snowball by adding more rules to stop our
basic rights to perform for the public in a public space,” he said.
The city’s restrictions on vendors in parks are being challenged in
federal appeals court by Robert Lederman, an artist and longtime
advocate against city restrictions on artists in the parks. A federal
district court upheld the Parks rules.
“This is earth-shaking news in terms of this lawsuit,” Lederman said.
“They did affidavits and testified orally in my case claiming that
because of the ruling they had no choice but to take entertainment and
street performers out of the park rules, and now they are putting them
back in. They are going to get sued about this by every performer.”
DeShawn Johnson, who dances in Central Park with his brothers and
nephews, considers the restrictions on entertainers a setback for the
city. “Street performers are a vital part of what makes New York great
for tourists,” he said, “and yet it always seems like the city is
trying to hurt us performers by limiting what and where we can
October 11, 2012
Billionaires evict street artists from Met Museum
See the documents and media reports here:
The first document (an eviction notice) was handed out to artists on Wed 10/10/12
October 2, 2012
SAVE WAIKIKI SIDEWALK ARTISTS
LETTER of PROPOSED LEGAL ACTION
i am a certified paralegal. I am also a street artist who has been
arrested 3 times for alleged peddling. Being educated, i know how to
research previous case law and court rulings. The internet is loaded
There has been a new effort in the summer 2012 to remove street
performers/artists from the public areas in Waikiki. Which violates
numerous previous court rulings. This is a NO-brainer for an
experienced attorney. Unfortunately, Dan Gluck of the local ACLU does
not have the experience or the skill level to get the job done. He is
new to the ACLU and has been useless in this matter. He is not a
competent attorney in my opinion and should not be with the ACLU in my
opinion. He does not even acknowledge the current arrests or that they
are happening. He has NOT responded to over two dozens requests for
help. He has a fiduciary duty to do this. Why does the state of Hawaii
have such low standards for licensed professionals?
I am looking for a experienced attorney in this area of law, who knows
how to write a serious complaint seeking an injunction against this
type of police abuse and to stop the arrests until the city council
can create rules that do not violate the artists right to free speech
in public places. This was accomplished in 2003. Civil No.
00-1-2039-06 VLC) and the Honolulu Police Department was issued a
restraining order against approaching street artist, performers and
free voices. It is time to remind the city/county of Honolulu and the
state of Hawaii that Street art is here to stay. A large class action
civil suit could yield great financial reward for the right attorney.
The peddling code is a city ordinance, and is generally known as a
“simple violation” and is not ever punishable by any amount of jail
time, no matter how many times you get convicted,
The peddling ordinance was written about 25 years ago, and is does not
apply to free speech art in public places. Honolulu City Council are
so lazy and uneducated that the peddling ordinance has not been
changed to reflect any current legal language that is in print from
previous higher court rulings. That is why the city/county of Honolulu
and state of Hawaii have lost numerous times when challenged in the
proper court. It would be easy for Honolulu City Council to update the
peddling ordinance. All they have to do is follow what as Los Angeles,
Las Vegas and Seattle did in recent months.
The Honolulu City Council are the ones who are not doing there job.
Most street performers/artists have NO problem paying rent and
following some basic rules. Where are the rules? There is NO legal
language in any Hawaii law book i could find regarding street
performances and artistic expression in public places. The peddling
ordinance says that NO ONE can solicit in the special areas of
Waikiki. Even with a permit. You see dozens of illegally (under the
table ) workers on the streets of Waikiki handing out flyers. Nobody
complains about the tens of thousands of dollars that state of Hawaii
and the federal government are losing in UNCOLLECTED employment taxes
every year. Why does the state of Hawaii not go after the business
owners who hire these people for less the legal minimum wage and then
not report there employee wages? Removing these illegally employed
people would clear the sidewalk and the state would make lots of money
collecting fines from these business owners.
Honolulu City Council has tried a few times in recent years to make
some basic rules regarding street performers/artists. The city lost in
court each time, as the rules were to restrictive. Again, affirming
the rights of street performers and artists. That is why this
situation is occurring and why Street art is here to STAY. If you have
a problem with that, take it up with Honolulu City Council and the 9th
Circuit. The cities of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle are in the
9th Circuit and have gone thru this same type of situation many times.
Street artists have won there cases in court many times in these
cities, and local ordinances had to be changed to reflect the current
These cities get 10 times more tourists than Waikiki. It is sad and
unprofessional that Dan Gluck of the Honolulu ACLU is so lazy and
incompetent that he cannot get the job done that his peers before him
have done and other more experienced attorneys have done in Los
Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle in the last 2 years. The 9th Circuit
has affirmed my position in the last few years. Hawaii is in the 9th
Circuit at the higher lever of the Judicial system. So why are these
arrests happening? Why are street performers/artists being physically
handcuffed and taken off to jail. Being forced to post bail. If you
get arrested and do not have bail (mine was $1,000). You could sit in
jail for up to 4 days for a N0N-CRIMINAL offense. Why was my bail so
Generally the fine for peddling upon conviction Is $100. Your personal
belongings just vanish. You may not get your personal items back. I
have NOT gotten any of my personal money back as of now. It just
vanished. A shakedown for sure. Did you know that “Jaywalking” is
considered a higher level violation than peddling? Are we arresting
Like most criminal minds, the police are getting too confident and are
getting lazy and are starting to make mistakes. Notice in the You Tube
video how they handcuff Karen with her hands in front of her. This is
generally against HPD department rules. HPD did this for the camera. I
asked on all 3 of my arrests to be handcuffed in front. The response
was “NO, It is against HPD rules of arrest. City and state officials
and HPD do not seem to care about previous high court rulings.
Generally when a person is arrested and handcuffed you are read your
Miranda rights. This does not happen either. This type of ignorance is
a disease worse than a cancer and must be legally stopped. When the
government takes over WE ALL LOSE as citizens. The city and state`s
reckless disregard for artists rights will cost the taxpayer plenty in
punitive damages. Hundreds of street performers/artists have been
illegally arrested in the last 3 years, a GREAT class action civil
suit. The state of Hawaii has LOST at least 3 times in recent years
when challenged about this issue in the proper court,
http://archives.starbulletin.com/2005/11/10/news/story01.html It can
be done again.
I have $5,000 as a retainer to get the right attorney started and have
a complaint filed in the proper court. I could go as high as $10,000
to get the job done quickly and done right. I am offering this job, to
protect myself and others who follow. A business investment for the
long term play of the game. Only 4 people were arrested in July 2012,
compared to the more than 24 that were arrested in August 2012. The
intentional harassment of street performers/artists will not be
Allowing street performers/artists to make a living for years in the
streets of Waikiki and then suddenly arresting them without warning,
causing a dramatic and sudden loss in income, creates something in the
judicial world that is called: “intentional infliction of emotional
distress”. And in some cases can be argued as extra damages awarded to
the plaintiff in the winning of the case. An average person might
think this is also a form of entrapment or cohersion, by letting
street performers/artists perform for years. And then suddenly
arresting them for the same behavior that was allowed just the day,
and for years before. One of the officers you see in the video told me
there was a new law, and asking for donations is NOW illegal and not
to come out any more. In fact this is a completely untrue ignorant
statement. There is NO new law. The ignorant officers comments are in
direct contradiction to the city`s attorneys response,
Do we really need ignorant and uneducated police officers making
decisions for use? These officers will do anything to show
productivity while collecting massive overtime pay. How much does it
cost the tax payers to use at least 4 police officers to arrest
someone. And then have the court system collect the $100 fine if a
defendant is convicted? I estimate the city and state to LOSE about
$1500 per arrest. The police officers involved in my latest arrest
were working OVERTIME. I was there when they were talking about it and
laughing. What a RIP-OFF to the taxpayer.
There are at least 10-12 people involved in each arrest/case by the
time the case is resolved. If the defendant does not show up to the
first hearing, a bench warrant is issued and the cost to the taxpayers
now SKYROCKETS. Also, if you go to trial and win your case, you still
have an arrest record. This WILL hurt your credit score and future job
possibilities and can make it very difficult to rent housing. I know,
i have gone thru this.
You are still subject to future arrests as well. I want to be
compensated for my damages now and to be protected in the future. If
you are an attorney with experience and can get this done quickly,
contact me. I can provide lots of case law, both locally and
nationally. The 9th Circuit has ruled on this issue before, affirming
free speech art in public areas.
I believe this case to be: “Mandatory Authority”, Berger v. Seattle,
512 F.3d 582 (9th Cir. 2008),
The arrests are still ongoing. I have attached a video from a few
days ago, showing the local cops shaking down an artist.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOP4hi8v-s Are you a great attorney
with experience who cares? I want to be compensated from the State of
Hawaii for my unconstitutional imprisonment and loss of money. Want
the job? This could be a HUGE class action suit as well as an
injunction. I will show you the money. My credentials are available
Contact me NOW, email:
NYC Art Activists Must Find New Vending Turf
By Courthouse News, Tue, October 02, 2012
MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge dealt a rare defeat to two artists
known for their regular legal battles to keep the police from shooing
vendors off public sidewalks.
One of the plaintiffs, Robert Lederman, founded Artists’ Resistance to
Illegal State Tactics, or ARTIST. He says police arrested him 44 times
for challenging policies he calls unconstitutional, but prosecutors
have never been able to convict him.
Lederman also claims credit for successfully challenging former Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani’s “quality of life” campaign and winning the right to
hawk art on the steps of the Capitol Building without a permit.
In mid-2010, Lederman and his colleague, Jack Nesbitt, filed a lawsuit
claiming New York City “waged a counter movement to quash” the
advances they had made in their First Amendment battles.
In particular, the suit accused New York City of defying the 2nd
Circuit’s holding in Bery v. City of New York in 1997, finding
licensing requirements for art vendors unconstitutional. Despite
this decision, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed artists out of public
areas to make way for his corporate “friends” and city-sanctioned
vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket and Holiday Markets at
Columbus Circle and Union Square, the artists claimed.
The suit also lambasted Bloomberg’s public art initiatives, “The
Gates” (“monstrosities,” the suit alleges), and “NYC Waterfalls”
(“four hideous metallic structures that wasted energy from 7 a.m. to
10 p.m.,” it stated).
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan tossed Lederman and
Nesbitt’s claims without commenting on their art criticism.
“Plaintiffs have made a practice of contesting any attempt to limit
their ability to display and sell their art whenever and however they
please,” Sullivan wrote in a 17-page order. “However, the Constitution
recognizes that the city must be permitted to balance plaintiffs’
speech rights with other myriad demands on municipal resources.”
The artists hoped to block revisions of Parks Department rules
allowing them to regulate busy stretches of sidewalk, narrow pathways
or areas near benches.
Police cited these new rules when they arrested the artists near the
Metropolitan Museum of Art on Central Park East, where the Strand
bookstore permanently sets up shop.
Although the artists say the regulations unfairly single them out,
Judge Sullivan noted that the city sought public input from hundreds
of residents before agreeing on a “narrowly tailored” regulation.
But the artists’ lawyer, Julie Milner, told Courthouse News that
Sullivan made a fateful omission.
“What the judge failed to mention in the decision is that the comments
were overwhelmingly on the side of the artists,” she said.
She added that the written comments favoring the city’s position came
from a petition circulated by Jennifer Falk, the executive director of
the Union Square Partnership that benefited from the restrictions.
Nevertheless, the judge argued that Lederman and Nesbitt could find
lots of other public turf to hawk their art.
“Although vending is not permitted everywhere – such as on grassy
areas, in close proximity to park benches, or on pathways that provide
less than a twelve-foot wide clear pedestrian path – a significant
amount of the Parks Department’s 2,700 acres of parkland in Manhattan
is available to expressive matter vendors,” the order states.
The artists dismissed this statistic as a “linguistic trick” because
they say that only a sliver of parkland includes wide pathways without
The judge called this critique a “slender reed” because the Central
Park Mall, the path to the Wollman Rink and “public sidewalks
throughout the city” remain open to venders.
“It is thus beyond debate that the city ‘enjoys a substantial interest
in ensuring the ability of its citizens practice to enjoy whatever
benefits the city parks have to offer,'” Sullivan wrote. “Because the
city has established that unbounded vending would squelch a range of
those benefits, and has responded with narrow, targeted regulations
that leave plaintiffs ample opportunity to exercise their rights,
defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted.”
Milner said she was “stunned with the ruling” and planned to appeal.
“We think that we submitted copious evidence in our favor,” she said.
“Hopefully, we can get artists back into the parks.”
The New York City Law Department did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
October 1, 2012
Judge Rules Against Artists in Park Rules Lawsuit
New York City: This morning, 10/1/12, Judge Richard J Sullivan ruled against artist plaintiffs Robert Lederman and Jack Nesbitt (Lederman, et al. v. NYC Dep’t of Parks, et al., 10-cv-4800).
The judge granted the City defendants summary judgment and dismissed all of the plaintiffs claims.
You can read the decision here:
The plaintiffs have begun drafting an appeal which they will file with the 2nd Circuit Federal Appeals Court at the earliest opportunity.
Robert Lederman made the following statement:
“We disagree with the ruling in every detail and expect that the appeals court will reverse the decision.”
Contact Robert Lederman
June 14, 2012
PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC LAND IN GREAT BRITAIN
This article will give you a good idea of exactly where Mayor Bloomberg is taking NYC.
Public spaces in Britain’s cities fall into private hands
Projects such as London’s new outdoor space, Granary Square at King’s
Cross, favour business over community, say critics
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 June 2012
Granary Square in London, which opens this week, will be open to the
public but is privately owned. Photograph: King’s Cross Central
When it opens this week, Granary Square will be one of the biggest
public spaces in Europe – a focal point for the regeneration of King’s
Cross, a neglected part of London. It will be managed in a private
estate of 10 plazas and parkland near the rail hub.makes this clear.
“Welcome to King’s Cross,” it reads. “Please enjoy this private estate
Over the past decade, large parts of Britain’s cities have been
redeveloped as privately-owned estates, extending corporate control
over some of the country’s busiest squares and thoroughfares. These
developments are no longer simply enclosed malls like Westfield in
White City or business districts like Broadgate in the City of London
– they are spaces open to the sky which appear to be entirely public
to casual passers-by.
It appears from the scale of the change that privatisation of space is
now the standard price of redevelopment. There are privatised public
zones across Britain, including Brindleyplace in Birmingham, jointly
owned by the property firms Hines and Moorfield, and Liverpool One,
owned by the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor estate. In Exeter,
Princesshay is described as a “shopping destination featuring over 60
shops set in a series of interconnecting open streets and squares”.
The spaces here are owned and run by the property group Land
Securities and the Crown Estate, which manages the monarch’s property
portfolio. Land Securities also owns Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, a
waterside complex of shops, bars and restaurants. Bishops Square,
which includes Spitalfields market, two squares and historic streets
in east London, was sold to JP Morgan asset management in 2010.
There are, of course, significant benefits to the redevelopments,
though some worry that Britain’s landscape is being slowly redefined
by private ownership in two ways. As the Occupy protest highlighted,
private owners can refuse right of entry to members of the public,
closing off swaths of the city.
Critics also warn that these spaces are being designed on a corporate
model that favours ornament – and high levels of footfall for
retailers – while community spirit and sustainability are not a
Access to some of the best viewing areas for the Queen’s diamond
jubilee river pageant, including a number of streets on the south bank
of the Thames, was restricted to wristband-wearing guests, a ban
enforced by private security guards.
Tower bridge and the Millennium bridge, both owned by the City of
London, were reserved for invited guests and closed to the public.
Members of the public were warned by organisers that the three bridges
open to them – Lambeth, Westminster and Blackfriars – would be
Occupy activist Naomi Colvin says: “It is a vision of society in which
you work and you shop. At times when you are not working or shopping,
you may go to restaurants.
“You may possibly go to some officially sanctioned kind of
entertainment activity which is sponsored by X but there’s no scope
for people to do something of their own – to do something
Although it lies within the London borough of Newham and borders
Hackney and Tower Hamlets, the Olympic park is not accountable to any
of these councils. A quango called the London Legacy Development
Corporation is in charge. After the Games, most of the Athletes’
Village will be developed by Qatari Diar – the investment arm of the
Gulf state – as luxury rental apartments. The outdoor spaces will not
be adopted by Newham but managed by their private owners. The council
will be responsible for a limited number of “adopted roads”.
To the west, about a mile up the Thames from parliament, another new
district is being created. Nine Elms, an area bigger than Hyde Park,
will be the site of the new US embassy, but it will also host
thousands of homes and offices, and the largest fruit and vegetable
market in Britain – New Covent Garden Market. There will be a network
of squares, footpaths and recreation spaces. The majority of the open
space will be in private ownership.
‘A new piece of city’
It is common for developers to argue that they are creating new public
spaces where none existed before. A spokeswoman for the London Legacy
Development Corporation said of the Olympic Park: “It’s worth
remembering this was industrial, unused, largely inaccessible land
before the works started. The land was contaminated with industrial
waste, the waterways clogged with abandoned shopping trolleys and car
tyres. There was also a network of overhead power lines that prevented
any development.” It is not a traditional park but “a new piece of
city”, she added.
The corporation aspires to create 8,000 jobs in the Olympic Park by
2030. It will also be a place to live for thousands. There will be
7,000 homes in five neighbourhoods, 35% of which will be affordable
housing. The Athletes’ Village development – to be known as East
Village after the Games – will include more than 1,300 affordable
There will also be many luxury homes created at the heart of one of
the poorest parts of England. On a media tour of the park, a guide
spoke of townhouses bordering parkland, with a “similar feel to what
you might see in Regent’s Park”.
Nick Cuff, Wandsworth council’s planning chairman, makes a similar
case for Nine Elms as opening up “new” space. “The regeneration of
Nine Elms is creating vast areas of new open space on the south bank
of the Thames,” he said in a statement.
“Chief among these will be a new stretch of the Thames riverside path
and a linear park running right the way through the district from east
to west. There will also be a network of new public squares, roads,
footpaths, cycle lanes, outdoor shopping areas and recreation spaces
which together will create an active, pedestrian friendly environment
for Londoners to enjoy.”
Occupy activists challenge this upbeat narrative. When Occupy London
seized an empty office block belonging to UBS, on the fringes of the
City, a spokesman described it as “a public repossession”, reclaiming
a symbol of wasted resources.
Colvin cites the empty UBS building as evidence of “an unhealthy
trend” of allowing land to go to waste then claiming it must be
redeveloped. “This is the pattern, just let things go to waste, knock
it down, redevelop it. And then when you redevelop it, the creation of
public spaces which are not public often seems to be a part of that.”
The loss of public space is not just a threat to street politics; it
risks erasing local character in favour of corporate sterility, Colvin
argues. Canary Wharf is “totally cultivated, totally deracinated”.
Samantha Heath, chief executive of the charity London Sustainibility
Exchange, agrees that developers often want redesigned civic spaces to
be ornamental and with a high footfall. She said: “If you look at the
[private] open spaces – More London, say – its just a massive paved
[area] … fountains which are very nice for cooling but don’t actually
really cool you if there’s no shade. It’s energy intensive. In terms
of upkeep you need to keep cleaning and grouting them out, but
biodiversity is poor.”
Politicians of all stripes acknowledge the importance of making people
feel part of a functioning community. Boris Johnson has spoken of
putting “the village back into the city”.
At a public meeting last year, the mayor of London said: “It’s not a
concept that I find people readily grasp but what I want is an
atmosphere of trust and neighbourliness and a village atmosphere in
parts of our city.”
But villages always included commonly owned public land, Heath said.
“In the archetypal feudal village there was always that space of
common land where everyone had the right to graze their pigs and
behave in a sensible way. There wasn’t the sense this was the feudal
landlord’s land. This was common land.”
The mayor has published a manifesto for public space, London’s Great
Outdoors, which accepts there is a “growing trend” towards private
management of publicly accessible space. Johnson writes: “Where this
type of ‘corporatisation’ occurs, especially in the larger commercial
developments, Londoners can feel themselves excluded from parts of
their own city.”
In a report last year, the London assembly’s planning committee
praised privatised spaces such as Mint Street Park, in Southwark,
south London, which is now managed by a local steering group. But it
highlighted examples of bad practice including a newly created open
space at Paddington Basin where “overzealous security guards” often
Based on a sample of planning documents, the committee found boroughs
lacked specific policies for dealing with public spaces in private
developments. Meanwhile, local authorities under financial pressure
are increasingly concerned about the upkeep of existing public land.
Heath said: “The big crisisthat is hitting most open spaces in London
over the past 20 years is the revenue cost of maintaining open spaces,
and local authorities who’ve got a lot of open space constantly worry
about how they’re keeping it up, and how they stop vandals and
graffiti, and maintaining good quality in terms of biodiversity.
“They may not want to give it away, but they certainly want to look at
innovative ways of funding the upkeep.”
Sir Robin Wales, the elected mayor of Newham, accepts his borough
could not afford to manage the Olympic Park. “Originally our view was
the park should either be a royal park, or maintained by the [City of
London] corporation. We know we don’t have an income stream.”
In the Occupy protest last year, activists targeting financial
institutions camped outside St Paul’s cathedral because they were
legally prevented from entering Paternoster Square, location of the
London Stock Exchange and owned by the Mitsubishi Estate Company. The
injunction stated: “The protestors have no right to conduct a
demonstration or protest on the Square, which is entirely private
Broadgate Estates, which owns and manages the 32-acre office and
shopping zone set around four squares between Bishopsgate and
Liverpool Street, also obtained an injunction last November. A witness
statement supporting the application for an injunction stated: “There
are no public rights over the common parts. (The gates to the Estate
are ritually closed, once a year, to ensure that no such rights can
arise by prescription).”
Obstacles to protest
Colvin said: “You probably remember the way Occupy London started,
[people] started a Facebook page, saying: ‘let’s occupy the London
Stock Exchange’. I’m not sure the people who started up that Facebook
page understood that Paternoster Square was private land until we
started getting the first press reports on it saying: have we talked
to Mitsubishi, who own Paternoster Square?”
The Paternoster Square management’s application for an injunction
noted: “The protest is inspired by the ‘Arab Spring’ movement.” But
London’s protesters had to find their Tahrir Square elsewhere.
Colvin said: “A lot of this was news to us. We became aware … of
different, more security-conscious estates around London. In that
first few months, we had different places take out injunctions against
Occupy are not the only activists inhabiting a shrinking public space.
Living Wage campaigners say they too have faced obstacles to protest.
London Citizens, the community organisation behind the campaign, began
with hospitals, which are surrounded by public land. The second phase
of the campaign focused on banks, which proved far less accessible.
Campaigners who gathered outside Canary Wharf blocks to obtain
testimony from low-paid workers were swiftly seen and picked up told
by security guards: “This is private land”.
Neil Jameson, London Citizens’ lead organiser said: “There was a lot
of understanding, particularly as we were lobbying also for the
security staff to be paid a living wage, so there was never any
“They let us stay but made it very clear that every piece of land on
Canary Wharf apart from the 50 yards outside the Jubilee line station
[is private]. That’s public land and whenever there is a demonstration
about anything on Canary Wharf it is on that piece of land – they are
directed to a little plot.”
The injunctions against protesters have demonstrated the limits of
tolerance when public space is in private hands. In the UK’s capital,
even the most visible emblem of local democracy is in private hands.
City Hall and the surrounding pedestrian area on the Thames is owned
by More London and run as a “managed estate” with its own private
January 22, 2011
THIS IS WHAT I’M FIGHTING FOR!
From: Robert Lederman New York January, 2011
This is what I’m fighting for
Today I was forwarded a short video about a recently joined ARTIST member, Peter Pryor. It was very refreshing to listen to someone who understands the opportunity and freedom of being a street artist; who has no territorial illusions about owning a vending space on public property; who is not looking to eliminate the competition from other vendors, artists or art vendors; and who genuinely appreciates what the ARTIST group has done to make this right freely available to him.
This is a perfect example of exactly what I’m fighting for and of what the ARTIST group represents. This is FULL First Amendment freedom.
December 17, 2010
A NY State appeals court judge has just issued a temporary stay
on removing the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order)
in Dua et al v Parks Department.
That means that until at least January 7, 2011, the Park rules
limiting the number of artists in 4 Parks and limiting where the
artists in those 4 parks can sell to the medallion marked
spaces cannot be enforced.
All the other revised park rules can still be enforced.
On or about January 7 the appeals court will consider
whether to uphold Judge Tingling (who just put the park rules
back in effect) or to reverse his ruling.
In the meantime, please try to not give the Parks Department
any opportunities to collect video or photo evidence of artists
congesting, blocking or damaging anything in parks.
December 16, 2010
Denies Injunction in Dua et al v Parks Department
A NY State Court Judge has withdrawn a Temporary Restraining Order and denied a Temporary Injunction to 9 artists in Dua et al v Parks Department.
The artists, represented by the law firm Phillips Nizer, had claimed that the revised Park rules for Artists discriminated against the elderly and women and that the longstanding “first come-first served” system of distributing vending spots to artists was unfair.
The judge rejected the Dua plaintiffs claim that “first come first
served” is unfair and that it discriminates against the elderly and
However, the judge indicated that he sees merit in the arguments that the Park rules were not created to protect public safety or to prevent aesthetic harm to the parks.
You can read the judge’s entire ruling here:
This ruling does not in any way end the lawsuits by artists against
the revised Park rules. The judge’s ruling simply removes the stay on enforcing the Park rules.
There are 3 lawsuits still pending against them, all 3 of which will
go to trial in 2011.
Two are in Federal Court and one is in State Court.
The first filed was Lederman et al v Parks Department.
The 2nd was Dua et al v Parks Department.
The 3rd was Dua et al v Parks Department
Link to text of revised Parks Department rules for artists as
published in The City Record on June 18, 2010:
Expressive Matter Vendors FAQ from Parks Department
* Robert Lederman’s written testimony submitted at the Parks
Department hearing on 4/23/2010. Has numerous photos as evidence of the real Parks Department agenda of privatization and concessions replacing artists
*2010 Holiday Vending Market in Union Square Park
* Park conservancy salaries, concessions and corruption
* Summary of the basic issue
* Real Cause of Congestion in NYC Parks and on Streets – Is It Street Artists or The Mayor?
***Who is really causing congestion in Union Square Park? Is it
artists or the Parks Department’s corporate events, vending
concessions and the Greenmarket? Watch these 2 comparison videos and decide for yourself:
5/30/2010 Taiwan Festival in USP and artists
5/22/2010 Greenmarket and artists in USP
* Sukkah City competition Union Square Park 9/19/2010 photos by R Lederman
Video of Sukkah City by R Lederman
Bloomberg and Sukkah City
*Selling naming rights in NYC Parks
*Union Sq Greenmarket violates all park rules for public safety
* Union Sq Park Greenmarket maps
Compare the amount of space for them vs for artists
* Union Square Partnership solicits for corporations
* Union Square Partnership BID promotes 60 restaurants, 20 wineries
where artists now banned
* Park privatization expose
* Corporate promotions part A USP 6/29/2010
* Corporate promotions part B USP 6/29/2010
* High Line-TARGET fashion show
* Marked spots for artists in Union Sq Park are both illegal
(according to the new park rules) and totally useless for vending
* Art stands in Union Sq Park sprayed with water by Parks Department every day
* Marked spots in Union Sq Park are where the NYPD have parked their cars for many years
* Three videos of marked vending spots in Union Sq Park showing that they are unusable
*Union Square Park Evidence files by Miriam West
* Parks Department solicits for huge Christmas Tree vending
concessions that violate all public safety rules
* Park Commissioner Benepe promotes Shake Shack chain, owned by Danny Meyer, founder of the Union Square Partnership BID
* Union Square Park congestion caused by the BID and corporations not by artists.
* How NYC Street Artists Won Our Rights
* Times Square BID Solicits for Vending Concessions in Pedestrian Mall
* Request for BIDs for new Union Sq Park Café
* Parks Department/Union Sq Partnership BID Solicits for 200 stand Holiday Market Vending Concession in Union Square Park
* Columbus Circle Holiday Vending Market
* Parks used to enhance surrounding real estate values
“The park [Central Park] added $17.7 billion in incremental value to surrounding properties.”
* Parks Dept/Madison Square Park Conservancy solicit for huge vending market
* Park conservancies getting huge salaries from City money-Daily News
* NY Post 9/13/09 “Fat cats turn park-keeper groups into their ‘shady’ money trees” Park Conservancy corruption tied to vending concessions
* Cupcake Cart Concession, Washington Sq Park (Note the sidewalk congestion caused by this concession and how it violates numerous Parks Dept rules concerning width of sidewalk, vending over a grill etc)
* Mayor Bloomberg fills NYC streets and parks with tourists, then
complains that a few street artists are “causing congestion.”
* Parks Department’s officially sanctioned corporate art (one of
hundreds of examples)
* NYU Law School rejects Park rules proposal
Union Square Community Coalition rejects Park rules proposal
NYCLU Rejects Park rules proposal
Park Commissioner started as illegal food vendor in Central Park
* Video of ARTIST protest by Sasha Sazanov
* Video of Protest/hearing by Susan
NY Observer 7/28/2010 New Parks Regulations Slap Street Artists
NY Law Journal; lead article, cover. Also has judge’s entire ruling
Videos of 7/19/2010 protest and sell-in Union Sq Park
* Lawsuit filed on June 18th to prevent enforcement of Park rules.
Plaintiffs Robert Lederman and Jack Nesbitt. [Docket #10CV04800 Southern District Federal Court]. Lederman et al v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al
>>> NYC sued over proposed cap on art vendors in parks Associated Press Jun 18, 2010 9:43 PM NEW YORK
Two street artists filed a free-speech lawsuit against New York City on Friday in response to new regulations seeking to cap the number of art vendors allowed in Manhattan’s busiest parks.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, asks the court to
declare the proposed regulations unconstitutional and award legal fees to the plaintiffs: Robert Lederman, the president of artist advocacy group A.R.T.I.S.T., and artist Jack Nesbitt.
Lederman filed a similar lawsuit against the administration of
then-mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2001, winning protections for artists selling their work in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said his lawyer, Julie Milner.
The lawsuit argues that the city’s new proposal to allow only about 120 vendors in Union Square, Battery Park, the High Line Park and parts of Central Park seeks to circumvent that earlier ruling. Currently, about 300 art vendors sell their work in those parks.
The lawsuit was filed Friday evening, Milner said. City Law Department spokeswoman Kate O’Brien Ahlers said the city had not yet received a copy but would review it thoroughly.
The city administration has said the parks have become too crowded, and even dangerous. But the lawsuit argues that greenmarket and holiday commercial vendors regularly create more congestion in the parks than the artists.
The city slightly raised its proposed cap this week after opposition to the limits from artists. The new rule is scheduled to take effect July 19.<<<
* Daily News
Artists fight public hearing on vendor restrictions in parks with
freedom of expression
* NY Times 4/24/2010 (go to site for photos)
* NBC News
(Has good video of the protest)
Seeing Red: Artists Protest Changing Park Vendor Rules
*** NY1News coverage of 4/23 ARTIST protest
(Important: Watch video and listen to Mayor Bloomberg pretend that this issue is about hot dog vendors, not artists. They must be
desperate to do that much spinning!)
* WPIX Channel 11 News NY
OR, see it here:
Hundreds protest NYC proposal to limit art vendors
* 1010WINS Radio News
(Excellent photo slideshow)
* CURBED Hundreds Protest Plan to Limit Vendors Selling Art in Parks Updated 2 hrs ago April 23, 2010
(Has good photos from the protest)
Artists Creatively Trash Bloomberg at Rally Against Park Rules
* NY Times
April 22, 2010
Trailblazer’s Take on Limiting Vendors (Article about the poet on whose behalf the Written Matter Exemption was created)
* DESTINATIONS EXAMINER
Hundreds of street artists protest Parks Department plan, attend public hearing April 24, 2010 PMNY Destinations Examiner Leslie Koch
(This article has another photo slideshow with great individual photos of many artists you know and their signs)
Mayor Bloomberg vs Artists: The Battle for the Soul of New York City by Brendan Smith
* Earlier Media Coverage of This Issue
NY Times April 16, 2010
City Seeks to Limit the Flocks of Art Vendors at Popular Sites in Parks
Daily News Editorials
Figures of speech: New York Park’s Dept. must put public above peddlers
NBC News website City Set to Give Park Art the Brush Off
By ANDREW SIFF and HASANI GITTENS Fri, Apr 16, 2010
NY Times City Room April 5, 2010
Artists and Vendors Bristle at Proposed Limits in Parks
NY Times City Room April 9, 2010
In Fight for Art Vendors, a Look to the Past Proof that the Parks Department ran a 160 stand art concession on Central Park South
where they now claim only 5 artists can sell due to “public safety” issues.
* NY Times
April 22, 2010 Trailblazer’s Take on Limiting Vendors
(This is an article about the poet on whose behalf the Written Matter Exemption was created, who now denounces street artists’ rights.)
Documentary on Union Sq Park as a center for political activism
DOT admits Greenmarket is actual the cause of congestion in USP
A Walk in the Park website
Lederman et al v Giuliani (2001) ruling overturning Park permits for artists Full ruling
Injunction in Lederman et al v Giuliani
Robert Lederman, president of ARTIST
To contact Robert Lederman use this address ONLY: