New York's Bridge-Climbing Subculture Is Fighting Over Those White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge

Image via City Council Member Mark Weprin's office
The infamous white flags.
Maybe you heard: on Tuesday morning, or maybe very late Monday night, someone swapped out the American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge and put some bleached white ones in their place. New York's public officials have been competing to see who can be more outraged and appalled over the stunt: Public Advocate Letitia James said the incident "raised serious concerns about our safety as a city," while Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams offered called the stunt a "terrorist act" and "descration" and offered $5,000 of his own money as a reward for information leading to the capture of the flag-swapping menaces.

Meanwhile, in a rapidly devolving debate taking place through Instagram and thinly-veiled jabs in the news, the subculture of daredevil photographers who like to climb high things and take stunning photos are pointing the finger at each other.

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Here's What It Looks Like When Reverend Billy and His Choir Visit a Harvard Drone Lab to Cast Out the Demons [Updated]

All photos by Minister Erik McGregor
The Queen Bee, Reverend Billy and choir enter the lab building.
When we last heard from anti-consumerist preacher Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, he was in a spot of legal trouble. In recent years, the choir's message has shifted away from the evils of individual consumerism and focused instead on corporate greed, staging special sermons for the big businesses that profit from the ruination of the planet. In October, that message landed him and music director Nehemiah Luckett in jail, after the choir visited a Chase Bank wearing toad hats and singing about the destruction of the earth (Chase has enthusiastically financed mountain-top removal, a particularly damaging form of mining.)

Reverend Billy and Luckett were charged with inciting a riot and menacing, among other charges, and faced up to a year in jail. Eventually, they were able to plead the charges way down: Reverend Billy plead to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to one day of community service, while Luckett's case was dismissed on the proviso that he stay out of trouble for six months.

"What a bush-league resolution that was," Reverend Billy told us cheerily, one morning not long ago. "I don't feel great about it. I get sick of the boredom." He compares the legal process to "death by a thousand cuts," with its endless trips to the courthouse.

Now, the Reverend says, "We've got to get back to work here. The honey bees are dying." The choir is back with a new campaign: drawing attention to the plight of the world's bees, who are dying off at alarming rates. To kick things off, they visited a Harvard lab yesterday, where they attempted to cast out its demons through song.

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"Topless Papparazzo" Holly Van Voast Wins $40,000 Settlement Against New York City and the NYPD

Image via LensJockey, Van Voast's Flickr portfolio
Holly Van Voast, in character.
In 2011 and 2012, Holly Van Voast and her bare breasts saw a lot of the city together. Van Voast, an artist and photographer, took on the persona of "Harvey Van Toast," a "topless paparazzo" who wore a pencil-thin mustache, sometimes a newsy sort of fedora, and not much in the way of shirt. She appeared in character on the D train up to the Bronx, in Grand Central, outside a tony Upper East Side elementary school (where, she says, an enraged helicopter mom grabbed her camera and smashed it), and once in criminal court, answering a citation she got during her walk through Grand Central. In the courtroom, she promptly took her shirt off, to the shock, displeasure, and probably near-heart-failure of her almost 90-year-old court-appointed attorney.

And of course, Harvey showed up frequently to snap paparazzi-style photos of movie stars, catching a nonplussed-looking Johnny Depp peering at her over the top of a car, a baffled Bill Cosby, and a delighted-seeming Robert Downey Jr. Van Voast meant it as pure art, she says, a sort of gonzo performance that would draw attention to both her and an underground group of "punk drag" performers she frequently photographed. Instead, over and over, she got arrested.

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Artist Invites You to Go Rooftop Camping, or Bivouacking, in the City

Categories: Art Stunts

Mark Römisch/
For the legions of city-dwellers without air-conditioning, summer in a cramped New York apartment means lethargy in front of an oscillating fan, ice cubes, and a uniform of underwear and not much else. In the days of packed tenement housing, New Yorkers even took to sleeping on the roofs or the fire escape, which one New York Times trend piece from 1908 described as the "tenement plan" or "roof habit."

At least one Brooklyn-based artist is trying to bring the roof habit back. This weekend, artist Thomas Stevenson will be hosting "Bivouac," a seven-tent camping installation on an undisclosed city rooftop.

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Cooper Union Students Perform Leaked Transcript of Trustee Meeting

In pure Cooper Union fashion, on Thursday night the students occupying president Jamshed Bharucha's office held a performative reading of the 41-page board of trustee transcript leaked by the Voice that same day. While students played the roles of trustees, president Bharucha's lines were programmed using a computerized text-to-speech tool. Students also recorded excerpts from the show via Vine, which you can check out after the jump.

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The Anatomy Of A Lap Dance: How Rubbing Your Ass On People Could Soon Be "Art" In New York

Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," Michelangelo's "David," and a lap dance from some stripper named "Cinnamon" could all soon have something in common -- each could be considered "art" here in the Empire State.

Let's rephrase that: they could all be tax-exempt "art" in the Empire State.

New York's highest court is scheduled today to hear arguments about whether lap dances should be considered an "art" form worthy of tax-exempt status under state law.

The case appears to be little more than a creative way for an Upstate strip club to get out of paying taxes. Yet, it's made its way all the way to Court of Appeals.

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City OKs Another Art Installation Despite Artist-Vendor Policy (UPDATE)

As we have pointed out before, the Department of Parks and Recreation is totally down with traffic-blocking art installations but not cool with unregulated artist-vendors because said vendors allegedly block traffic and mess with public spaces' aesthetic.

Yea, we are confused by the Department's approach, too.

And we're learning that another aesthetic-altering art installation is planned for the High Line.

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City: Traffic-Blocking Art Installations OK, Park Artist-Vendors Not OK

Yesterday, the Voice reported on several developments in the ongoing park artist controversy: namely, that the Department of Parks and Recreation doesn't seem to have a problem with street creatives in public spaces as long as they're picked by the City.

This is confusing, of course, because one of the City's main arguments against unregulated park artist-vendors is that they mess up an area's aesthetic and foster congestion. So, we wanted to know: How can the Department make this claim while simultaneously greenlighting, say, an above-ground living room around the Columbus Circle monument?

Well, we got an answer from the City's legal team.

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So What Is The City's Policy on Park Artists?

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.

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New York City Hit With Another Park Artist Lawsuit, Allegations of B.S. Arrest

Another day, another report of legal drama between New York artists and City admins, it seems.

Here's what's going on today: as we reported just yesterday, there are currently two lawsuits -- one filed at the state level, the other filed at the federal level -- which will basically decide whether New York's artist vendors have a right to freely sell their wares in the City's parks.

It's a convoluted topic -- with significant Constitutional implications -- and it's been debated off and on in court pretty much since the Giuliani administration.

(Read all the Voice's past coverage here.)

Anyway, today brings a THIRD lawsuit to the table.

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