Though the Department of Parks and Recreation isn’t facing any additional legal drama today, several news items have recently surfaced that put to question some of the city’s main claims against artists.
So what’s going on now?
Well, when we attended a hearing on this issue in July, City Attorney Sheryl Neufeld said that the Department has the right to regulate park artists.
She argued that the City is acting constitutionally, claiming that municipalities can make rules to preserve the aesthetic of parks, control crowds, and make sure everybody can enjoy public spaces.
However, it seems like the City is totally cool with drastically altering the aesthetic of parks, even if doing so might make it difficult to enjoy said parks and create congestion.
As the New York Times reported, artist Tatzu Nichi is building a living room around the Christopher Columbus statute in Columbus Circle — and the project was gleefully OKed by Adrian Benepe, outgoing Department commissioner, despite safety and traffic concerns.
And some have criticized the plans, saying that the living room will hide the iconic statue.
This isn’t the first time, though, that this kind of aesthetic alteration has taken place.
Recall Leon Reid’s Tourist-in-Chief, which dressed the George Washington in tourist attire.
The Times recent piece on the Bryant Park summer artist residency adds further confusion.
Yes, it is true that these artists are not selling their wares and yes, Bryant is managed by a private corporation.
However, this is worth pointing out because it kinda suggests inconsistency.
The City has claimed that artist vendors foster congestion on Park pathways, but there’s suggestion in the Times‘ piece that crowds are a concern, as 20,000 people tend to visit the area on a summer day. The Columbus Circle installation, mind you, is expected to draw 100,000.
We reached out to Parks and Rec for an explanation, seeing as how these decisions seem a bit contradictory.
So far, Parks isn’t talking, saying the Department can’t comment on legal matters.
We have also asked the legal office for comment, and will update if we hear back.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.