Walk through any of the parks in New York and you will find one thing in common. They are lined with art vendors selling everything from books to paintings and photos. A colorful and dynamic gallery in a city known for its arts. Now the city administration says the vendors are out of control and wants to limit the number of vendors by as much as 80%. The new rules would affect Central Park, Union Square, Battery Park, and the High Line Park. Amazingly they are smart enough to leave Washington Square alone or risk starting an outright rebellion in the Village.
The city has tried to limit vendors for years. The administration of the great art fan Rudy Giuliani sought to require permits for all art vendors. A federal appeals court sided with the artists and said they were protected by the First Amendment and The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the city's appeal.
Now in an editorial the New York Daily News calls the vendors ‘freeloaders who assert the right to sell what they want, where they want, on the grounds that they're expressing themselves.’ And in an op-ed piece in The New York Times ex-councilman Edward Wallace went so far as to say some vendors may be selling stolen goods, ‘An army of book sellers set up tables along Fifth Avenue, blocking the sidewalks, collecting no sales tax and paying no property tax, and in some instances selling stolen goods.’ In fact vendors are required to have and display a tax id under current regulations.
Eerily, while all this is going on, the Parks Department granted Cake&Shake a permit to sell gourmet cupcakes in front the Metropolitan Museum, an area that has been off limits to most food vendors. In return, Cake&Shake will pay $108,000 to the city. The cupcake vendor also will pay $27,000 for a spot in Washington Square Park. We are talking $5 cupcakes in my park, I hate cupcakes. Yesterday I saw a poster for sale where the said cupcakes will soon reside. An old wild west style poster that said simply ''Wanted: Killer of NYC Artists' Rights.'
Maybe Robert Lederman says its best, Lederman is president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists' Response To Illegal State Tactics). He wrote ….
'To the editor,
Mike BloomberBloomberg is a hypocrite on art and an art elitist.
He wants to let Christo wrap all of Central Park in giant swaths of yellow fabric, yet at the same time his lawyers are before the Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals trying to prevent a handful of painters, printmakers, photographers and sculptors from displaying art around Central Park .
He cut City funding to arts institutions that help low-income artists while continuing to fund David Rockefeller's Museum of Modern Art renovation.
He donates millions to arts organizations which are fronts for the City's wealthiest corporate interests while having First Amendment protected street artists' displays crushed in garbage trucks.
Mike Bloomberg made his billions as part of the media, but he seems to have zero tolerance for the rights of artists.'
And so The Great Art War of 2010 begins. Stay tuned.