Last year the police were hassling the art vendors in SoHo, something documented by Robert Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics). Around the same time, word of an Alan Gerson-proposed bill to "deal with the problem" was getting out, and now the City Council proposal has arrived, leaving the artists on the defense.
The NY Post reports that "The council last week began considering limiting the number of art vendors to two per block on pedestrian-packed sidewalks such as the stretch of West Broadway in the artist-saturated neighborhood." Gerson's concern is that some of the streets are too congested, while the artists fear their First Amendment-protected free speech, "and the battle for our rights," hang in the balance. Not to mention their income.
They have compiled a video proposing that the BID (Business Improvement District) obstructs the sidewalks as well, with planters and trash cans, saying they "violate every section of the proposed new vending laws." Lederman even points out that in 2004 Lieutenant Robert D'Onofrio, commanding officer of the Manhattan South Peddler Task force, testified in Federal Court saying the planters were put up to obstruct the vendors.
From pg 31 of the Federal Court transcript:
THE COURT: And what is the point of the planters, if you know?
Lt. D'Onofrio: Well, my understanding is so the street vendors, will not put their carts or their tables on the sidewalk because they have to be at curb side.
On Friday, the artists held a protest outside of City Hall, and are planning to keep protesting. They have a website set up documenting their ongoing battle.