Activist is arrested at a panel about private funding for parks

By Albert Amateau

Getting arrested is old hat for Robert Lederman, the street artist involved in a legal challenge to the city’s revised park rules.

Arrested twice in 2009 on the High Line, Lederman was arrested again on Tuesday night Aug. 9 for disrupting a panel on public/private financing and the administration of city parks.

Lederman waved a sign saying, “Park privatization is a real estate scam…raising property values for the Mayor’s wealthiest friends.” The sign also said Adrian Benepe, the Parks Department commissioner, “…is a real estate agent selling our public parks to the highest bidder.”

For an hour, Lederman stood in front of a panel of speakers, led by Benepe, at the Museum of the City of New York, until police came to haul him off to the 23rd Precinct, where he spent about three hours before receiving a desk appearance ticket.

Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics), is to appear in court Sept. 13 on the disorderly conduct and trespassing summons. Jack Nesbitt, Lederman’s co-plaintiff in the challenge of park rules, attended the Tuesday panel discussion and made a video of Lederman’s demonstration and arrest. Geoffrey Croft, president of N.Y.C. Parks Advocates, who shares Lederman’s opinions on city parks, was on hand to photograph the demonstration.

Lederman and Nesbitt’s lawsuit challenges the Parks Department’s new rules limiting where artists can sell their First Amendment-protected work in Union Square Park, Battery Park, High Line park and parts of Central Park. The suit is still pending in Federal Court.