Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Vendor: Veni, Vidi, Vici?

City Room posts yesterday on the looming battle over first amendment vending in and around city parks-with the vendors bristling, as they are wont to do, over any regulatory restrictions: "Many of the vendors in Union Square Park on Friday said they were against the regulations, and displayed yellow “Artist Power!” signs that implored visitors to support artists’ rights to sell in parks. Noel Donaldson, a 40-year-old abstract-realist painter from the Bronx, was selling paintings and denim dolls in Union Square Park. Mr. Donaldson said he thought the regulations would be ineffective. “I showed up at 5:30 this morning and it was already packed,” Mr. Donaldson said. “There will definitely be arguments between artists, and artists will be everywhere. No one’s going to stop it. It’s like asking us not to breathe.”

The reaction from our parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, was rather droll, given how the city has taken such a laissez faire attitude to enforcing its peddler ordinances: "Mr. Benepe argues that the new regulations are constitutional. “There’s nothing at all in the Constitution or the First Amendment that gives private businesses the right to take over public property in a completely unregulated way,” he said."

Yo, Adrian! That's exactly what has happened-at least all over Manhattan-where fruit and vegetable peddlers are hooked up right in front of neighborhood supermarkets; operating without regard to a myriad of unenforced local regulations. So, if enforcement is in the cards, let it be universal-and not just in the holy green spaces. After all, no private business has the unfettered right to bogart public property. Right Benepe?