PROTEST 5/27: NYC ordinance restricts newspaper vendors, free

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 26 May 1998 10:12:23 -0700 (PDT)


=46WD  CC Replies to sender: ARTISTpres <ARTISTpres@aol.com>
Date: Mon, 25 May 1998
Subject: Giuliani/Street Vendor Panel/144 new restricted streets

PROTEST ALERT:
Join the City's artists and activists to PROTEST Mayor
Giuliani=EDs speech at Cooper Union Art and Engineering
School 5/27/98 1 P.M. St. Marks Place and 3rd Ave. N.Y.C.


NEW YORK CITY:
GIULIANI, THE STREET VENDOR REVIEW PANEL AND THE
RESTRICTION OF 144 STREETS TO VENDING

by Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T.  (718) 369-2111


There have been a number of misconceptions concerning the Street
Vendor Review Panels' "vote" on 5/20/98 and its effect on the
City=EDs vendors.

1. The New Restrictions Do Not Just Affect Food Vendors.
According to the N.Y.C. Vending Ordinance, First Amendment
protected artists, newspaper vendors and book vendors (all of
whom are exempted from needing a license), as well as licensed
vendors, are restricted from any street where food vendors are
restricted. This means that the sweeping new restrictions affect far
more than food vendors' business locations and the publics' right
to buy a cheap hotdog. They effectively ban the selling of fine art,
books, political materials, bibles and newspapers on the street as
well.

2. No One Has Threatened Violence Except the Mayor.
The casual statement by one representative of one food cart
vending group that "fights" might occur when the new restrictions
go into effect is being deliberately misinterpreted by Mayor
Giuliani as an excuse to threaten and demonize vendors the way he
has done to cab drivers. That individual's statement referred to the
possibility that as the City=EDs food vendors are forced into a smaller
and smaller territory by the Street Vendor Review Panel,
arguments between vendors over spots are likely. As a class of
New Yorkers, vendors tend to get along fairly well in terms of
sharing the public space. There was never any threat, real or
implied, against the police, the Mayor or anyone else.

Mayor Giuliani was characteristically quick to seize on this
innocent statement by one individual in order to set the stage for
the real violence to come. That will take place when he orders the
N.Y.P.D. Peddler Task Force to begin mass arrests of vendors and
the confiscation of hundreds of food carts, art displays, book
stands, and piles of daily newspapers being sold on city streets.
The "fight" the Mayor is afraid of is the continuing struggle by
A.R.T.I.S.T. to expose his police state tactics and his violations of
the constitution on behalf of corporations, Business Improvement
Districts and real estate interests.

The Mayor is right to anticipate that the new restrictions may
radicalize the City's vendors and, as the N.Y. Times suggested on
5/24, push them into an alliance with the City's street artists. That
could mean big trouble for the Mayor not only in court but on the
streets. The protests A.R.T.I.S.T. has held for the past four and a
half years have drawn an increasingly large police presence. Our
demo on 5/15 outside the Mayor's opening at the Leica gallery
involved more than 100 police officers and a riot squad, all for a
peaceful protest by 20 artists. Our next scheduled protest, on 5/27
outside Cooper Union Art School where the Mayor is giving a
commencement address, will likely draw a small army of police.
What extremes the Mayor will resort to if we begin mounting
demonstrations with hundreds or even thousands of vendors, can
only be guessed at, but his military style response to the recent cab
demonstration gives some indication.

3. The Panel's Vote Was Illegal.
As Earl Andrews, chair of the Street Vendor Review Panel noted
in the Times and elsewhere, there is good reason to believe there
will be a lawsuit as a result of this staged "vote". The panel is
made up of three City officials personally appointed by the Mayor
from City agencies known to be anti-vendor. The only
non-Giuliani appointed member was missing at both hearings. At
the 1/8 hearing on proposed street restrictions the Downtown
Alliance showed an absurd video purporting to document
congestion which featured a homeless man dropping his pants.
Commissioner Andrews later attempted to have me arrested while I
was speaking in my scheduled time spot because I was questioning
the validity of his panel and of the Mayor's war on vendors and
street artists. During the 5/20 "vote" Commissioner Andrews had
the police drag me out of the hearing when I made a point of order
challenging the legality of the panel voting minus its one
non-Giuliani appointed member.

There is no objective criteria for determining that a street is
congested, but even if there was, such criteria were never used in
determining this "vote". The sole criteria was that an individual or
real estate interest alligned with the Mayor wanted a street closed.
The main petitioner for closing these streets is the Downtown
Alliance. This real estate organization is made up of landlords and
businesses who are the traditional opponents and competitors of
vending. Aside from that, the Downtown Alliance itself closes off
entire streets to vehicular traffic, allowing restaurants and other
businesses to set up tables, chairs and clothing racks in the street.
"Congestion" caused by a few vendors can hardly be compared.

4. The Business Groups Behind Restricting Streets To Vendors
Are a Threat To Democracy and the Constitution
It's worth noting that in 1996 the Downtown Alliance joined with
the Fifth Avenue Association, the Madison Avenue B.I.D., the
Grand Central and Thirty Fourth Street Partnerships and the SoHo
Alliance to try to get the Federal Court to eliminate all First
Amendment protection for visual art in order to eliminate the
City's street artists.  That the Downtown Alliance B.I.D. is
financing and building a police precinct in which N.Y.P.D.
officers and private security guards for the Alliance will both be
headquartered is simply more proof of the inordinate influence this
organization wields with the Mayor. Not only does this so-called
Alliance not represent New Yorkers generally, according to both
City Council reports on the B.I.D.s its own members have little if
any say in the decision making process. They are members not by
choice but by the accident of being in the B.I.D.s territory. The
extra taxes they are assessd to finance the B.I.D. are involuntary
and are about to be increased by as much as one third to pay for
the police substation.

5. The Congestion Issue is Being Falsely Used to Target Vendors.
If congestion was something the City was really concerned about,
why does it let corporate sponsors promote parades, marathons,
film premieres in Central Park and hundreds of street festivals
each year? The Macys Day Parade, a commercial for a single retail
store, causes more congestion in one day than all the vendors in
New York put together do in one year. In 1998 it almost caused
the deaths of numerous people. The Times Sq. B.I.D.s' New Years
Eve Celebration cost the City millions in police overtime. The
City=EDs hundreds of "street festivals", which are nothing more than
a scam involving a few individuals using their influence to obtain a
permit to hold a street fair and then selling the rights to thousands
of vendors, causes immense congestion and inconvenience. These
"fairs" celebrate their organizers' political connections, nothing
more.

The bottom line is that in Giuliani=EDs New York, corporations,
Business Improvement Districts and real estate interests that
contribute money to the Mayor can exploit, congest, damage or
destroy the streets and parks of our city violating every precept of
"quality of life". Vendors, street artists, pedestrians, cabbies,
bicyclists, community gardeners, minorities and other people the
Mayor does not consider to be his constituents are mercilessly
harassed, illegally arrested, demonized, denied due process and
persecuted no matter how much they try to play by the rules.

6. Mayor Giuliani is Breaking the Law.
In 1996, after winning our court battle we believed the arrests of
street artists would finally come to an end. The Federal Court
declared that: "...paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures,
such as those appellants seek to display and sell in public areas
of the City, always communicate some idea or concept to those
who view it, and as such are entitled to full First Amendment
protection...the City's requirement that appellants be licensed in
order to sell their artwork in public spaces constitutes an
unconstitutional infringement of their First Amendment rights."
Has the Mayor, who lost his appeal of that ruling before the U.S.
Supreme Court, begun to respect our rights?

To use myself as an example, from 1993 until we won our case in
1996 I was arrested 8 times for selling my art and received 5
separate summonses. In the past three months alone I=EDve been
arrested 11 times while displaying or creating art (mostly portraits
of Mayor Giuliani) and received an additional 21 Criminal Court
summonses. Despite being arrested a total of 32 times for
protesting or showing art since Giuliani came into office and
receiving more than 40 summonses I've never been found guilty
and have only been brought to trial on one arrest, in which I
represented myself and was acquitted.

Not only have my arrests increased in frequency but the rank of
police officer ordering the arrests and the attendant threats and
violence against me have steadily risen. It used to be just the cop
on the beat or a Peddler Squad officer that I had to deal with. Now
I'm routinely confronted by Inspectors, Captains, Lieutenants and
officers from the N.Y.P.D. Intelligence Division. My group's
activities are routinely photographed and videotaped by the police
and I've been interrogated a number of times by N.Y.P.D.
Intelligence while in custody. Am I a terrorist or a violent
criminal? My "crime" is that I persistently advocate full First
Amendment freedom for all New Yorkers. In Giuliani's New York,
that activity has earned me the police tag, "Chronic Offender".

This latest effort by Giuliani to violate the rights and ignore the
wishes of the average New Yorker (as compared to the real estate,
banking and stock market people he means when he says, "I've
been talking to New Yorkers..."), has done us all a big favor. We
might now have the beginning of an alliance between artists,
vendors, cabbies, community gardeners and activists that could
create real opposition to the developing corporate police state that
Giuliani represents. Thanks to Mayor Giuliani, We The People of
New York may just be waking from our long nap.

*Join the City's artists and activists to protest Mayor
Giuliani=EDs speech at Cooper Union Art and Engineering
School 5/27/98 1 P.M. St. Marks Place and 3rd Ave. N.Y.C.

Contact#: Robert Lederman (718) 369-2111 E-Mail:
ARTISTpres@aol.com
Andrew Miltenberg  attorney for the artist plaintiffs in Lederman
et al v Giuliani  (212) 481-4242 To read the 2nd circuit decision
granting street artists full First Amendment protection go to:
http://www.openair.org/alerts/artist/nyc.html
Mayor's Press Office 788-2958; *Also see: NY Times 3/2/98 B1
"Artists Arrested in Protest Near Museum";  Newsday 3/2/98 A7;
Village Voice 2/24/98 pg 57 "Chronic Offender"; Newsday
2/26/98 A8; NY Times editorial 3/4/98; Newsday 3/16/98 pg 4.
NY TIMES Metro pg 1 3/22/98 "War of the Paintbrushes"; Time
Out 4/16-23/98 pg. 39 "Brush With Danger"; N.Y. Times Metro
4/18/98 "Judge Upholds Limit on Artists Selling Pictures Near
Museum"; Newsday 4/20/98 cover story "Under Giuliani City Has
Repeatedly Stifled Dissent"; N.Y. Times 5/7/98 pg B4 "For
Giuliani, A Different Big Picture"; N.Y. Post Editorial 5/17/98
"The ARTIST Hustle"; NY TIMES 5/24/98, "Giuliani Plans to
Prohibit Food Vending in Wide Area"; Daily News, N.Y. Post and
Newsday articles same day.

--"Freedom," Giuliani argued, "is about authority. Freedom is
about the willingness of every single human being to cede to
lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do and
how you do it." New York Newsday pg A3 4/20/98 "Taking
Liberties / Courts, critics fault Rudy on free speech, public
access".


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