With the Parks Department poised to limit the number of street vendors who can descend upon touristy park spots, street artists sued the city for a second time yesterday. The regulation, the subject of much backlash from the vending community since its proposal back in April, would cut the number of vendors in Union Square, Central Park, Battery Park and other green places by more than half, from an estimated 300 to a cap of 120.
Remarkably, these 120 vendors would claim their spots on the primitive structure of a first-come, first-serve basis, so although tourists may not be forced into the street from the over crowded sidewalks anymore, they may be in peril of a stray fist thrown by vendors fighting to secure a location for their day's work.
The lawsuit, filed by 11 street artists, is on the same basis as the last suit in April, which a Daily News editorial described as "wrapping themselves in the First Amendment." The artists claim the cap on vendors is a violation of their constitutional right to free speech, presumably because the artists sell products of personal expression, though we're not sure where the magnets shaped like bananas and beer bottles fit in.
After the first suit, the Parks Department compromised by raising the cap from 81 vendors to the current 120. However, the Street Vendor Project found that 94 out of 100 parkgoers (New Yorkers and tourists) wanted the vendors to stay. The organization also recently reported on a new technique some building owners are using against vendors: Planters! Turns out big, cart-blocking planters full of some variety of evergreen make for perfect artist repellent.