Update: Street artists target Mayor Bloomberg as 'destroyer of artist's rights'
April 8, 1:26 PMNY Destinations Examiner Leslie Koch

Street artists have launched a creative campaign that portrays Mayor
Bloomberg as a "destroyer of artists' rights."

As previously reported in this column, the A.R.T.I.S.T. advocacy group
unveiled a new poster on Tuesday that accuses Mayor Bloomberg of
"killing New York City street art."

A.R.T.I.S.T. president Robert Lederman labeled Mayor Bloomberg
'a destroyer of artist's rights' and encouraged members to create
anti-Bloomberg imagery. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The NY Destinations Examiner has confirmed that the poster is part of
a larger strategy to associate Mayor Bloomberg with a controversial
Parks Department proposal on vending.

Street artists strongly oppose the new rules, which would
significantly reduce the number of vendors selling art, books and
writings in four popular Manhattan parks.

They believe the Parks Department restrictions violate their First
Amendment rights. This claim is disputed by the Parks Department.

The Parks Department is headed by Commissioner Adrian Benepe, a
Bloomberg appointee.

"We’re going after Bloomberg and we’re going to show that if you don’t
reign in Adrian Benepe, we’re going to make you world famous all over
again as the destroyer of artists' rights," Lederman stated after the
Community Board 6 meeting on Tuesday night.

"[Bloomberg] spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating his fake
image as an art patron."

A.R.T.I.S.T. poster, unveiled on Tuesday, that
accuses Bloomberg of 'killing New York City
street art.' (Poster: Victor Spinelli/A.R.T.I.S.T.)

When contacted on Wednesday, the Parks Department and the Mayor's
Press Office declined to comment specifically on the anti-Bloomberg
poster.

"This issue is about all park users and not just vendors," responded a
Parks Department spokesperson.

A spokesperson at the Mayor's Press Office defended the proposed regulations.

"We believe they are constitutional because they are time, place and
manner restrictions."

Creativity as a weapon

Lederman has urged the 2,000 members of A.R.T.I.S.T. to use their
creative skills to fight the proposed regulations.

"We’ll use our art to fight for our First Amendment rights. I’m a
painter, I’m a writer, a musician, a film maker- I’m using it all. All
[A.R.T.I.S.T. members] are using all of their tricks of the trade to
defend their rights in the parks," Lederman said on Tuesday.

This grassroots campaign will continue to intensify until the public
hearing on April 23.

Protest art

The A.R.T.I.S.T. campaign puts pressure on Mayor Bloomberg by making
him the public face of the proposed Parks Department restrictions.

Starting this week, visitors to Manhattan's parks can expect to see a
variety of anti-Bloomberg images on display at artists' stands.

It is a familiar strategy for Lederman, who clashed frequently with
the Guiliani administration.

"...I know Mike Bloomberg doesn’t want me doing a Giuliani on him like
I did for 8 years," Lederman was overheard saying to Manhattan Borough
Commissioner William T. Castro, following the Community Board 6
meeting.

Under Giuliani's tenure, the Parks Department required artists to
obtain permits to sell their work. Lederman protested the rules by
selling art on city streets, for which he was arrested over 40 times.

>> Click here for You Tube video of Robert Lederman's February 2000 arrest outside of City Hall. Lederman carries a large caricature
of Mayor Giuliani and a sign that reads, "Giuliani took my vending spot. City Hall will be my new vending spot."

Lederman, along with other artists, filed a series of successful
lawsuits against the city that led to the abolition of vending permits
and licenses for street artists.

Lederman immortalized Giuliani in a series of protest paintings. In
Gestapo Giuliani, the former mayor bears a Hitler mustache and a
message on his sleeve reads, "Giuliani = Police State".

Opposing strategies

The Parks Department and the A.R.T.I.S.T. advocacy group are both
trying to sway public opinion over the new regulations, but follow
distinct strategies.
Related articles
New York street artists unveil anti-Bloomberg poster in fight against
Parks Department rules

Union Square artist market threatened by new Parks Department rules

The language they use to describe the regulations is indicative of
these differences.

"This is not about artists per se. This is about expressive matter
vending," a Parks Department spokesperson stated on Monday.

This terminology is revealing. "Expressive matter" is an abstract
concept that is not readily understood by the public, while "vending"
conjures images of hot dog stands and souvenir sellers.

By describing the affected sellers as "expressive matter vendors" and
not "street artists," the Parks Department steers the discussion away
from First Amendment rights and puts the emphasis back on parks
congestion.

In contrast, the A.R.T.I.S.T. campaign rejects the "expressive matter" label.

"We are called street artists or First Amendment vendors, not
expressive matter vendors," Lederman asserted at the Community Board 6
meeting.

Two weeks remain

Time is running short for opponents of the proposed regulations.  They
have two more weeks to generate public support before the hearing on
April 23.

Both the Parks Department and A.R.T.I.S.T. encourage members of the
public to voice their opinions before the hearing.

Written testimony should be submitted to the Parks Department legal
counsel, Alessandro Olivieri. His email is:
alessandro.olivieri@parks.nyc.gov
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