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New Vending Rules Take Effect in Four Parks After Artists Lose Court Appeal

By Amy Zimmer | May 18, 2011 6:09pm | Updated on May 19, 2011 6:55am
The usual Union Square vendors who set up north of the holiday market in December 2010.
The usual Union Square vendors who set up north of the holiday market in December 2010.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — Artists in four city parks are going to have to scramble for new places to sell their works.

A Manhattan appellate court ruling Tuesday lifted a temporary restraining order that blocked new Parks Department rules limiting art vendors in city parks. Thirteen artists filed for the order claiming the rules violated their free speech rights.

Art vendors in Union Square will be limited to 18 every day, with an additional 40 vendors allowed Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday — days when the Greenmarket isn't operating. Five vendors will be allowed on the High Line, nine in Battery Park and 68 in Central Park below 86th Street.

A Parks Department spokeswoman said that the new rules would take effect on Saturday on the High Line, which is the most "congested" spot for artists. Enforcement will kick in for the other three starting on Monday.

"We have to gear it up a little," the spokeswoman said. "The Parks Enforcement Patrol has to be told."

The court didn't think the artists would be "irreparably harmed" by lifting the injunction since they have other streets and parks where they can sell their works.

"The city has a significant interest in preserving and promoting the scenic beauty of its parks, providing sufficient areas for recreational uses, and preventing congestion in park areas and on perimeter sidewalks," the ruling stated.

Painter Stephanie Chisholm, who has been selling her whimsical paintings of animals and other images on Fridays and Saturdays for a year in Union Square, said she would start looking for other sites, such as SoHo sidewalks and the Christopher Street Flea Market.

Still, she was stunned by the ruling.

"I'm just praying right now and seeing what happens," said Chisholm, who was not involved with the lawsuit. "It's like being on a job and being laid off."

Union Square is "a great place to sell your art," she said. "The whole world comes there to buy. We created a great thing."

Robert Lederman, an artist and advocate who has long been fighting the Parks Department over vendor rules and is involved in a separate federal lawsuit challenging them, asked artists in an email to "display protest signs on a daily basis rather than acting as if nothing is going on except business as usual."

He wrote: "Rather than give up, it’s time to stand up. The public supports artists in parks."

The city's Law Department was pleased by the ruling.

"The court correctly found that the vending rules are narrowly-tailored, content-neutral regulations that do not infringe on the plaintiff's First Amendment rights to vend their wares," Julie Steiner, senior counsel for the department.