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Artists to 'Speak Out' Against Washington Square Park Crackdown

By Andrea Swalec | December 19, 2011 5:45pm
Street artist Joe Mangrum makes sand paintings in public areas including Washington Square Park.
Street artist Joe Mangrum makes sand paintings in public areas including Washington Square Park.
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JoeMangrum.com

MANHATTAN — Performers in parks citywide have been hit by fines in the last two months for collecting donations near landmarks and monuments, and on Monday night Village and SoHo residents will have a chance to say their piece about their local buskers

Community Board 2 will hold a "speak out" Monday night on the impact in Washington Square Park of new Parks Department rules stating that performers who receive money need to be at least 50 feet from landmarks and monuments. 

Street artist Joe Mangrum, who makes "sand paintings" in Washington Square Park and elsewhere, said he will attend Monday's meeting to speak up about the impact of the policy on artists who make their living in city parks. Since the beginning of November, he has been ticketed $4,750, he said. 

"I would like them to reverse these rules and let all the artists be," he said. "They've killed all the liveliness of the parks." 

Mangrum, a Village resident, said he has seen a drastic reduction in the number of artists in Washington Square Park since the Parks Department began to crack down. 

"People come from all over the world to perform here. New York is missing out on all these international artists that would ordinarily play," he said. 

The purpose of the CB2 speak-out is to give locals a chance to air these kinds of concerns about the rash of summonses issued to musicians, board chair Brad Hoylman said. 

CB2 may propose a formal resolution on the busker ban in January.

"We hope the Parks Department thinks of changing their policy," he said, adding that the board does not have an official position yet. 

While Parks Enforcement Patrol officers may be enforcing the rules, 6th Precinct officers are not, Commanding Officer Brandon del Pozo said at CB2's full monthly board meeting Thursday night. 

"We have no plans to enforce this rule until it's clarified. We want to see exactly what it involves," he said. 

Parks Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp said the agency welcomes community input but that no changes to the policy are in the works.

"We aren't considering changing the rules at this time," she said. 

The speak-out will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the eighth floor of NYU's Kimmel Center, at 60 Washington Square South.