No Permit No Sale at BBP

The other day we received an email from a man whose wife tried to sell her artwork in Brooklyn Bridge Park during the DUMBO Arts Festival. Upon arriving they were met by Park President Regina Myer, who told them they did not have the proper vendor permits and therefore had to move; the resulting confrontation was posted on the couple’s site:

[Artist E.K.] Buckley presented her certificate of authority to collect sales tax and explained her right to sell expressive matter in the park to Myer, thinking this would clear it up. Myer was not interested, and told Buckley that her rights didn’t apply in this particular park. I started taking video.

The video and BBP’s statement after the jump.

We contacted BBP, and Ellen Ryan, VP of Strategic Partnerships, emailed me their statement.

Brooklyn Bridge Park operates under a set of rules and regulations that were recently adopted by its board of directors on September 22nd. These rules are adapted from NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and also include provisions in place at the Hudson River Park, specifically those that concern waterfront use. Brooklyn Bridge Park rules include all NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Rules.

Brooklyn Bridge Park rules, posted on the park’s website in their entirety, have the following provisions as they relate to sale of commercial vending:
7B. Unlawful Vending: It is illegal for any person to sell, offer for sale, hire, lease or let anything whatsoever within the park, except under and within the terms of a Permit for such activity issued by BBPC.

On Saturday, September 25, two artists set up a table and display to sell artwork at Pier 1. Citing Brooklyn Bridge Park rules, the artists were asked to dismantle their display. Further consultation with Parks Enforcement Patrol clarified the overriding rules on the sale of expressive matter, which is protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment. In accordance with new NYC Department of Parks & Recreation rules (see below), the artists were then asked to relocate their display away from the main entryway of Pier 1 and the adjacent park furnishings to ensure reasonable entry and enjoyment by all park visitors. The vendors complied and made work available for sale for the remaining part of the day.

As of July 19, 2010 new rules were issued by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation concerning the sale of “expressive matter,” including art, photography, reading material and sculpture in City parks. Brooklyn Bridge Park will comply with these new rules. It is the intent of Brooklyn Bridge Park to create and maintain a democratic public space in which the fully protected rights of expression of the individual are balanced with the park’s mission to provide a welcome respite for all park visitors.

So what do you think? Was BBP unduly harsh? Does “free speech” still come into play when it comes to selling rather than just displaying artwork? Or was this a large misunderstanding about sales tax certificates vs. park permits? Comment below.

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  • DrewB

    There have been numerous law suits on this matter, and every time the courts have ruled on the side of artists to display and sell their art in public places in NYC. It is not only protected by the Constitution, but specifically by the City Charter of NYC which allows for the selling of book and original art works on the streets.

    More info here:

  • Jason

    I had an interesting experience there too. Apparently there is no fishing there either. There are no signs that say “no fishing” but if you try the security guards come out of the wood work. You can my story here on my blog.

  • nabeguy

    Jason, that might be for your own protection. You wouldn’t really eat anything you caught, would you?

  • my2cents

    Yes, DrewB, sale of art or of books, i think, is protected under freedom of speech/expression. From what I have heard from a friend who sometimes sells work at Union Square, Art is one of the things you don’t need a permit to sell.

  • william

    But, it’s not a park. It’s private property stealing tax money.

  • Claude Scales

    Jason: the park rules say “fishing in designated areas only”. Next time the gendarmes tell you not to, ask them where the nearest “designated area” is. Bon appetit!

  • Jason

    Ha, no I def would not eat anything from there but there is a thriving fishery there so if you love to fish and can’t make the drive to Montauk why not? The designated area they talk about will not be ready until 2012.

  • bklyn20

    The “No Fishing” incident sounds similar to the “No Scooters” incidents. Maybe a dress code will be next — “No Jeggings Allowed,” anyone?

  • BklynKnight

    hey jason, I totally agree about the fishing. I readied my equipment and was trying to get out there myself, then read your blog. I’m not sure which is more frustrating… security citing that there were no “fishing permitted ” signs posted…or BBP’s claim to be ready to allow angling by 2012 … A catch and release sign with hours and designated areas would probably make all good.
    I followed your advice by forwarding an email to BBP.

  • Steve R.

    I know that this may be an unpopular opinion, but I just cant see why sale of art/expressive material should be exempt. My tax money goes into creating an environment that is carefully designed to promote my ability to relax and enjoy something not readily available elsewhere, and it detracts from this to have folks out selling their creations. Many of us are justifyably concerned about private residential and commercial buildings going into this area and work to try to minimize (or prevent) this from happening. A couple of dozen art vendors lining the walkways and hawking their wares is, to me, similarly annoying. There are times that someone selling art isnt significantly different to me that someone selling water. Maybe a “vendors’ square” area designed to promote these sales in a couple of locations throughout the park might be a good alternative? People who are interested can then go into these areas and others wont be intruded upon. Just my opinion… it’s not just “freedom vs. beaurocracy” issue to me– there’s also a “freedom to enjoy” for the rest of us that’s involved.

  • ujh

    Rules have been determined for Brooklyn Bridge Park, as posted by Ellen Ryan. The fact that BBP has a board of directors sets this park apart (NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe is a board member). Food vendors apply for their permits through an RFP process. I suggest the complainant petition the BBP Corporation to consider a future RFP for artists.

  • william

    I have seen some very large Strippers (aka Sea Bass, or Rockfish) in the water at night under the lights. Would be great fishing if allowed.

    Too bad. They are great sport fish, and really fight. Rockfish are attracted to pier pilings and feed on smaller fish who try to hide there.

    Also, most of these fish are migratory, so they probably don’ spend a lot of time in one place. I certainly wouldn’t eat anything caught in the Gowanus Canal, but East River or Hudson River fish are okay if you don’t eat more than 3 servings a month.

    You have no idea where wild fish sold at the market were caught, or where they lived prior to being caught.

  • cwr

    One artist selling would be interesting and nice, but you know that many would quickly follow and change the park into a market. Not desirable.

  • Zia

    Being an Artist—–This information infuriates me. What happens when an individual or a group wants to draw or paint there. Or how about –No cameras or weddings—–etc.
    Freedom has many faces– so much to think about,
    So much to loose.

  • nabeguy

    William, please let us know when you see those Strippers again…that’s sure to attract a lot of poles.

  • Claude Scales

    Maybe Club Wild Fyre really is back, at Pier 1.

  • nabeguy

    Renamed Club Wild Fryer.

  • william

    I saw the fish in the space between Piers 5 and 6 – right behind 360 Furman Street. There is a street-type lamp right by the benches facing Governor’s Island. There were several 3-footers right near the surface at approx 9 PM. (The light draws them). I guess the “Park” police (aka art-haters) will be staking the place out now. Good Luck.

  • since47

    Oy, nabeguy. Oy, Claude…

  • WillowtownCop

    I don’t work in an area where we deal with peddler enforcement, but my understanding of the vendor rules is that you can sell your own original artwork without a general vendor’s license, and your right to do so is protected under the 1st amd. You still can be arrested or summonsed for failing to display a tax certificate, which this artist apparently had. I think the rules about not vending within a certain distance from subway stairs and vents, curb cuts, the doors of businesses etc. still apply because they are considered reasonable safety limitations. (You can’t set up your soap box in the middle of traffic on Atlantic Ave.) Rules that limit how much public space and what public space exactly must be set aside for free speech probably fall under this category- can you imagine what would happen to the park if 500 people with card tables and bathroom-at-Nordstrom’s paintings showed up everyday and took over?

    I suspect the issue will not be resolved until someone who is willing to fight a summons as far as they can lets the park brownies do what they will and takes it to the judge. I’m not sure what authority the park president thinks she has to enforce the law like that, but I wouldn’t have left just because she told me to.

  • Legalist

    Willowtown Cop–the applicable legal standard for First Amendment restrictions is reasonable time, place and manner, which varies depends on the facts and circumstances. I just can’t wait until Spencer Tunick decides to show up. Who’s with me? :)

  • nabeguy

    Since47, sorry if you took offense, but Claude and I are just a couple of bad oys…sometimes our humor is vey over the top.

  • Jeff Booker

    Free speech is definitely the issue, whether you’re displaying expressive matter or selling it. The development corporation should not prohibit constitutional rights, or attempt to sell permits for freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment. They were way out of line.

    As to those who think artist stands are annoying, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to stifle a constitutional right. I have found political protests that I don’t agree with annoying, but would never suggest that they be refused their rights.

    I would rather see arts on display for sale than the riverfront mall commerce that we are currently offered in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

  • http://deleted Anon

    Has anyone figured out that this is not a “park”? It isn’t designated a park nor will it be any time soon (or ever). It is Regina Myer’s little playground where she collects taxes ($16 million worth taken away from the city’s coffers) and she runs it with Bloomberg appointees on the board (comprised of people who believe private luxury condos should reside inside our public parks) consenting to whatever her little heart desires. So unless these artists have big bucks like her board members, or members of her BBP Conservancy Club cheerleaders, they won’t be allowed to do much of anything there. The real crime is that this is PUBLIC LAND is being given away to private interests and no one seems to care!

  • Obama?

    “Brooklyn Bridge Park operates under a set of rules and regulations that were recently adopted by its board of directors on September 22nd…”

    Is it a park or a corporation?

    I find It disconcerting to have corporatists’ cops checking whether artists’ papers are in order, writing down their personal information (to be kept in some database?), and ejecting them from a park.

  • DerekJetah

    I think the artists should sell fish.
    Or bait.
    Or permits.
    Or photos of the old warehouse buildings which were knocked down.
    Or images and videos of Regina arguing with artists trying to sell fish.
    Or bait.