NYC Parks Department Concedes Artists Have Right to Sell Art in High Line Park Post Arrests

Visit the recently debuted A Walk in the Park Blog to hear the latest on the High Line Park where artists were arrested three times in recent months for selling artwork in the new park. Artist and activist Robert Lederman is prepared to challenge the City Parks Department with a new lawsuit. He has previously prevailed in federal court where it was decreed that it is a First Amendment right for artists to be able to sell art in a public park.  Mr. Lederman met with NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe after the arrests. Subsequently, the Parks Department has retreated from their original position (that this vending is illegal because a permit is required or an issue of “public safety”) and said they would no longer authorize Park officers to arrest artists in the park.

$153 million of public funding has been allocated to the High Line Park’s creation. Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates writes at A Walk in the Park Blog that that money could have been directed towards “communities that desperately need their already established parks fixed up.”

From the blog:

On Saturday [12/12] artists were allowed to sell their wares on the High Line without incident for the first time. The day before, the Parks Department reversed its position which had resulted in three arrests. Their previous vending policy only permitted selling items which included designer muffins, exotic teas, coffee and gelato. Unlike the “expressive matter” vendors, commercial concessions bring in revenue to the city.  The City is currently negotiating a sole source concession agreement with the Friends of the High Line (FOH) which would allow the group to keep revenue from items sold on the park property. Since its opening in the Spring, the City has allowed 29 different permitted commercial vendors on the High Line but no art vendors.

In addition, Croft writes: “One would think that the Friends of the High Line would have made every effort to accommodate artists instead of actively trying to discriminate against them.”

From the Friends of High Line Park:

Artwork is a logical inclusion for the High Line; artists, gallery owners and art collectors were among the earliest supporters of its transformation into a public park space, and it runs through some of the most culturally significant neighborhoods of Manhattan. “