Letters to the Editor

High stakes on the High Line

To The Editor:

Re “High Line arrest takes art argument to another level” (news article, Dec. 2):

I appreciate The Villager covering my arrest on the Highline, but wanted to correct a few misstatements.

My stand is 5 feet high by 8 feet long, exactly in conformity with the existing New York City vending laws and Parks Department rules. The article stated it was 6 feet high and that it could legally be 8 feet in height.

Second, all the summonses I was issued are directly related to Parks Department rule 105-b, vending without a Parks permit, which was the first summons the officer wrote. That’s the exact permit the federal courts overturned in 2001.

Finally, concerning me suing the city for damages:

Many people can never see the the civil rights aspect of these controversies — just the money. What course of action would anyone take who was falsely arrested based on a permit that was already declared illegal by seven different courts? Suing is the only way to stop more such arrests of artists from taking place.

Some people think Americans should not sue doctors who mistreat patients, drug companies whose products injure the public or city officials who knowingly violate the law. Yet, without those lawsuits we would all be at far greater risk of injury to our rights. No civil rights movement has ever succeeded without such lawsuits.

That I was trying hard not to get arrested or be issued summonses is evident by my showing the officer the news articles on the permit being overturned, and repeatedly asking him to call Mr. Reeves (his direct superior in the Park Enforcement Patrol), Alesandro Oliviero (Parks Department’s counsel) or Kevin Jeffrey (head of Park Enforcement) — all names he admitted knowing.

Considering that the New York Police Department officers in the Sixth Precinct where I was taken also told him that it was legal for me to sell art, there was no excuse for the PEP officer to make this arrest.

Robert Lederman,

Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics)

‘Polluting, profiting, parasite’

To The Editor:

Re “High Line’s line on art” (Police Blotter, Nov. 25):

Poor Robert Lederman. New public spaces are being opened up so quickly that he can hardly keep up his efforts to pollute them for his commerical interests and personal profiteering.

Now, instead of leaving the wonderful new jewel of Downtown, the High Line park, for the enjoyment of children and seniors, residents and visitors, he’d rather see it defiled so that he might pocket a dollar — or many — for his greedy self.

Without the Friends of the High Line, we’d today have a string of luxury housing developments as a monument to our previous mayor instead of this lovely park. Lederman’s contention that the Friends raising desperately needed revenue through arrangements with a very few commercial vendors is equivalent to his attempt to rake money from visitors for his private benefit is shameful and greedy, no matter what loopholes his lawyers are able to exploit.

I wasn’t aware of a shortage of commercial space in the city, particularly in these economic times. Sadly, this individual would rather subvert the community space that belongs to us all and degrade it for his own parasitic gain.

Ian Dutton

Lawman’s logic is lacking

To The Editor:

Re “High Line arrest takes art argument to another level” (news article, Dec. 2):

The city Law Department ought to fire Taussig, who apparently cannot even think rationally: “However, it is not based on vendors’ constitutional rights but rather on the court’s reading of a city law which exempts certain First Amendment vendors from having to obtain permits.” 

In speaking of the 2001 ruling in Lederman et al. v Giuliani, he fails to see that if the ruling “exempts certain First Amendment vendors from having to obtain permits,” he denies that the ruling applies to First Amendment rights when, in fact, it obviously and squarely said exemption does rely on those rights. 

I have been wanting to return and live in New York after many years elsewhere. I wonder if the city would hire me, a non-attorney, to proofread city statements for content and rationality, a quality that Mr. Taussig obviously lacks? 

Good reporting on Mr. Lederman’s long battle in defense of all our rights. I remember some 50 years ago facing down a city police officer when he tried to stop me from selling Socialist newspapers on the street in Harlem in front of a meeting in a church, after he had intimidated a half-dozen others from doing the same, making them go across the street. 

The beat goes on and Mr. Lederman fights the good fight. 

Jack Jersawitz

‘Lederman’s correct on law’

To The Editor: 

 Re “High Line arrest takes art argument to another level” (news article, Dec. 2):

Your article concerning the arrest of Robert Lederman for “selling his artwork” in High Line park does a good job of illustrating several levels of this issue.

First, Mr. Lederman is absolutely correct about the law. The judge’s wording in the famous Bery decision (named after another artist) stated without ambiguity that artists have the right to express themselves in public space and that selling their artwork is part of that expression. It is frustrating that officials in charge of the High Line have not informed their enforcement officers of this ruling, since all they are doing is allowing Mr. Lederman an opportunity to sue the city again and take even more money from New York City’s depleted financial reserves.

The fear in some is that the floodgates of vending will now open in High Line park. There is a sense among them that Mr. Lederman is, in fact, opening the door to every nonartist who simply wants to make a buck selling unauthorized copies of photos, like Bob Gruen’s images of John Lennon or Xeroxed copies of gallery brochures or magazines. 

In your article, Robert invites vendors who sell written matter to set up shop on the High Line. Although this is also legal, it raises fears in this group that the homeless used-book sellers on Sixth Ave., and those who sell illegally copied movie scripts, will permanently move to the High Line to set up their displays next to those who sell illegally copied, bootleg artwork. This is just what has happened in many of the top spots where artists used to display their own artwork, but no longer can due to the overwhelming presence of illegal vendors and bootleggers.

Enforcement in the parks, particularly on the West Side, has at times been too severe. For example, I — a veteran — was nearly arrested in Battery Park for photographing two young American flag-waving dancers who lost family members in the World Trade Center attack. This occurred immediately after we were refused entrance to Liberty Park because the park police thought we might “protest.” 

Recently, a well-known fine artist creating an exciting new canvas was ordered to leave High Line Park under threat of arrest. Now we have this outrageous arrest of Mr. Lederman, who clearly had a legal art display. How is any of this a positive for the park or the city?

Obviously, a far better approach would be to initiate a system to enhance and protect fine artists displaying and creating their own artwork while limiting the huge numbers of salespeople who are often hawking illegally copied, inferior-quality prints and bootleg movie manuscripts to an unsuspecting public. This sort of system is very easy to create and only requires the artist’s signature on their artwork to match their tax ID, driver’s license/state ID or passport for identification. 

Lawrence White

U.S.C.C. vs. U.S.P.

To The Editor: 

Re “Union Square: A bright spot in New York’s economy” (Progress Report article, Nov. 11):

The Villager’s nod to the Union Square Partnership ignores the role of the Union Square Community Coalition in making this area “a bright spot in New York’s economy.” 

About to celebrate 30 years of advocacy, U.S.C.C. has been a watchdog group serving the public interest in both the park and surrounding area. 

When the Partnership promoted an inadequate new playground design, it was the current leadership of U.S.C.C. that led the fight for a larger playground area, nearly doubling existing play space in the park.

When U.S.C.C. advocated for installing facilities that children in wheelchairs could use, U.S.P. was silent. This issue is still to be addressed by the Parks Department. 

When the Partnership pushed to enclose the pavilion to accommodate a year-round restaurant, again it was U.S.C.C. that led the fight to defeat this idea. 

When several community groups, including U.S.C.C., campaigned successfully to get Union Square designated as a National Historic Landmark, the Partnership was silent. 

When U.S.C.C. won landmark designation for several important buildings in the area, where was the Partnership? Absent. 

When U.S.C.C., just a few months ago, organized community board representatives and transit advocates to fight — successfully — the M.T.A.’s intent to eliminate the M6 bus, where was U.S.P.? Absent. 

And most important — it is U.S.C.C. that is challenging the Parks Department in court to stop privatization of the pavilion. Instead of a restaurant overlooking the playground — in a neighborhood that has 150 eating places within a few blocks, including 17 right on the square itself — U.S.C.C. is fighting to perpetuate the pavilion’s historic public use.

Among other suggestions, U.S.C.C. sees the pavilion as a sheltered recreation space for the adjacent playground. Remember — it used to be called The Women’s and Children’s Pavilion! The remodeled enclosed basement could serve many uses, including a mini-museum highlighting the labor history that won for Union Square its National Historic Landmark designation, and a facility for helping teachers who bring young students to the Greenmarket to learn about food and farming.

The invitation is still out for the Union Square Partnership — and others — to join us in these endeavors.

Sylvia Friedman and Carol Greitzer

Friedman is president and Greitzer is a board member, Union Square Community Coalition 

Stunningly nasty

To The Editor:

Re “What about ‘uncivil cyclists’?” (letter, by Lois C. Schwartz, Nov. 18):

I was stunned by the nasty letter from Lois Schwartz saying some bicyclists “deserve” to be run over. Amazing. I wonder if you’d print a letter saying any other category of people deserve that.

Don’t know why some people hate bicyclists so much — they aren’t killing anyone here. Unlike motor vehicles! It’s just sick. And what — motor vehicles and pedestrians never disobey traffic laws? Pedestrians are the worst, in fact.

Dave Berg

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