Legal Controversy Over New York's Park Artists Continues With Complications (UPDATE)

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As the years-long legal battle over New York's park artists crawls closer toward a conclusion, their main representative has submitted yet another court filing accusing the city of treating them differently from performers, violating the U.S. Constitution, and misconstruing facts.

In a request to intervene and affadavit filed today, which were both furnished to the Voice, artist advocate and ARTIST President Robert Lederman wrote Hon. Milton Tingling, claiming that the city has falsified evidence in artist vendor-oriented cases.

But why did Lederman write to Tingling? After all, U.S. Judge Richard Sullivan did hold a hearing on Friday in which Lederman's lawyer made pretty much the same allegations.

Well, it's kinda complicated. We'll explain...

Long story short, there are a couple of ongoing cases involving disputes between artists and the Department of Parks and Recreation, The City of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and retiring Department Chief Adrien Benepe.

One of the cases, Dua et al, is filed in the New York State Court System.

The other one, for which we attended the hearing, is filed in U.S. Court.

Right now, judges presiding over both cases are weighing what is called a "motion for summary judgment."

What this means?

Basically, the judges are going to decide whether the cases should go to trial or get dismissed altogether. If the latter happens, that pretty much means that artists can't do anything about the City's rules.

Yea, we told you this was complicated...

Anyway, Lederman, who is a plaintiff for the Federal case but not the state one, filed a request to intervene with the state case because Sullivan will likely base his decision off of Tingling's ruling, which is scheduled to be made Aug. 3.

In other words, if Tingling does not rule in favor of the artists, Lederman's case probably won't go anywhere.

Though Lederman isn't a plaintiff in the Tingling state case, he is still legally permitted to file a "request to intervene" because the decision will directly impact his lawsuit.

Now, if your brain isn't completely overloaded, let's recap some of Lederman's basic claims.

He says that the City is being discriminatory toward artists -- and violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution -- as it's no longer enforcing permitting rules against performers and entertainers. He also takes issue with the City's position that there are 28,000 acres of parkland and 58 miles of pathway available to artist-vendors. Lederman says that some of the City-approved vending areas are insufficient, as some are used for parking by police officers. And, Lederman claims that the City's regs have been enacted for the purpose of eliminating artists altogether.

We have reached out to the City for comment on Lederman's claims, as a cursory review of the some 20-page affidavit does seem to support some of them.

UPDATE: City Attorney Sheryl Neufeld, who's handling the Lederman case for New York, had this to say, "Mr. Lederman's claims are simply wrong. In addition, to the extent he believes that city officials have committees perjury, we notice that he elected to grandstand to the press, rather raise his allegations with the the proper prosecutorial authorities."

The City has also taken issue with the Aug. 3 decision date, countering that both sides must simply submit papers -- and that the deadline might be pushed back anyway.

Also, the City's counsel does not think that Sullivan will necessarily look to Tingling's decision as legal precedent.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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