New York City has recently announced a proposal to limit the number of art vendors in city parks and public spaces. And Battery Park likely won’t escape the effects of these plans, which some are calling Bloomberg’s attempt to privatize public space.
The proposed restrictions would supposedly ease congestion in heavily trafficked areas, including Union Square, Central Park, the High Line and Battery Park. Last Friday a public hearing was held to hear the opinions of art vendors, their critics and their staunch advocates. According to the New York Times, the protest had some of the best looking signs you’d ever seen.
So we decided to check out the congestion ourselves. During a leisurely walk through Battery Park today, we counted north of 30 different art vendors. However, they seemed evenly dispersed amid the nearly 25 acres of land. The restrictions, should they be approved, would allow only nine vendors along the perimeter of the park between Pearl Street and West Street.
Here’s a quick look at the numbers based on the proposed restrictions:
Battery Park: 25 Acres | 9 Vendors
Union Square: 3.59 Acres | 18 Vendors
High Line: 2.15 Acres | 8 Vendors
If you do the math, or simply go for a stroll through Battery Park, it is painfully obvious that the the BP art vendors would be getting one helluva raw deal. For starters, the vendors don’t even come close to creating congestion on a weekday. And, while Battery Park could easily engulf both Union Square and the High Line combined, it would be allowed fewer than half as many vendors as Union Square should the proposal come to fruition.
We spoke with Asif Javed, an art vendor who has been selling his photography in the park for nearly 10 years, to get his take on the matter. For his part, Javed believes that the legislation should not be aimed towards the art vendors: “[The rules] are aimed at those people who are selling 9-11 disaster books on the streets who make congestion.”
It’s quite clear speaking with Javed that the situation in Battery Park would be dire should 35 to 50 art sellers have to pack up shop and move elsewhere. Since most vendors work solo, coming to a decision on who gets to stay and who gets the boot would be difficult indeed. “It’s going to be a big chaos,” warns Javed. “It’s my work. I don’t want to lose this job! Unemployment is already at 9 point something percent and going up. [Deciding] is going to be a big mess, and I don’t think we can manage it.”
Javed seems hopeful that a resolution will be found as art vendors have faced similar issues in past years. “Last year, the same thing happened. [The City] was against us, and we beat the city. We’ll take it to court again. Our leader Robert Lederman is already working with our lawyers and legislatures. We are hoping the mayor will reconsider.”
Javed says that he and his colleagues are hoping for an opportunity for discourse with legislators. “If we sat down with administrators we could come up with a solution for this problem easily.” Let’s hope that happens.