NEW YORK, May 18 (Reuters) - New York City officials can
start limiting the number and location of street vendors who
sell art, photography and similar wares in some of the city's
most congested parks, a state appeals court has ruled.
Tuesday's decision, by the Appellate Division, First
Department, was the latest round in a legal battle that began
last summer, when several artists sued the city's Department of
Parks and Recreation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city
officials over the new regulations, for violating their
constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
Those lawsuits are still pending in both state and federal
courts, but the appeals court denied the plaintiffs' motion for
a preliminary injunction and lifted a temporary restraining
order that had been in place since the lawsuits were filed.
"We can start enforcing the rules right now," said Gabriel
Taussig, chief of the administrative law division in the New
York City Law Department. "We've discussed that with Parks and
they are formulating their plans."
The plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction in
federal court, but that motion was denied last July.
"We are extremely pleased with the appellate court's
decision," said Julie Steiner, who represented the city in the
state appeal. She added that the city's rules are
"narrowly-tailored, content-neutral regulations" and do not
infringe on the vendors' First Amendment rights.
The plaintiffs are "very disappointed," said their
attorney, Jon Schuyler Brooks, but he added that "we are
reviewing our options." The plaintiffs did not immediately
appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals, New York's high
The regulations limit the selling of "expressive matter" --
for example, art, photography and books -- to a total of 100
designated spots in four of the most heavily visited city
parks: Union Square Park, Battery Park, High Line Park, and
portions of Central Park. Such vendors do not require a
Only one vendor would be allowed at each site, on a
first-come, first-served basis. In their complaint, the
plaintiffs argued that vendors were spending the night on the
perimeter of the restricted parks in order to be the first to
claim one of the few designated spots. That resulted in a
"survival of the fittest" system, "which has a discriminatory
effect on women, the elderly, and the disabled, who are unable
to fairly compete with others for the designated spots," the
In its ruling, the court found that the city "has a
significant interest in preserving and promoting the scenic
beauty of its parks," which includes "providing sufficient
areas for recreational uses and preventing congestion." The
court ruled that existing restrictions were "no longer
sufficient" to balance the interests of the vendors and the
The city will start enforcing the rules in High Line Park
on Saturday and in the other three parks on Monday.
The case is Diane Dua et al v. New York City Department of
Parks and Recreation et al, New York Appellate Division, No.
For Diane Dua et al: Jon Schuyler Brooks of Phillips
For the city: Julie Steiner of the New York City Law
(Reporting by Jennifer Golson)