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Phillips Nizer Press Release

December 17, 2010

Jon Schuyler Brooks
(212) 841-0780 | (516) 455-0215

Kevin B. McGrath
(212) 841-0743 | (646) 734-8228


Phillips Nizer LLP persuades appeals court to enjoin enforcement of new rules

New York, NY – In the legal equivalent of a New York minute, the City’s street artists first lost and then regained their constitutional right of free expression in the on-going battle being waged against them by the Parks Department.  On Wednesday, December 15, 2010, the State Supreme Court issued a decision that lifted the temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting the City from enforcing recently-promulgated rules aimed at severely limiting the rights of visual artists to display and sell their works, and denied the artists’ motion to convert the TRO into a preliminary injunction.  The next day, the artists’ lawyers, Phillips Nizer LLP, appealed that decision, and filed an emergency motion to prevent the City from enforcing the new rules.  Late Thursday evening, December 16, 2010, Justice Peter Tom of the Appellate Division, First Department, heard argument from Phillips Nizer and the City’s lawyers, and then issued an Order granting the artists’ interim relief.  Consequently, the artists keep their right to display and sell their original artwork in and around the City’s parks throughout the holiday season and beyond.

“The Grinch, masquerading as the Parks Department, was about to steal Christmas and the entire holiday season from New Yorkers and tourists who – especially at this time of year – seek out the original artwork produced by these talented individuals,” said Jon Schuyler Brooks, the litigation partner at Phillips Nizer who argued the artists’ emergency motion.  “The intervention by the First Department benefits not only the art lover looking for an original gift, but also the artists, many of whom depend upon increased sales at this time of year to help support themselves financially.”

At some point in January 2011, the First Department will consider whether to extend the interim stay through the determination of the artists’ appeal of the trial court’s December 15, 2010 decision.  Phillips Nizer believes that decision contains at least six legal errors.

The defendants, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, seeks to limit and restrict vending in Central Park, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line and sidewalks adjacent to them.  The artists contend the new rules infringe on their rights to free speech and equal protection under the New York State Constitution, violate New York State and New York City human rights laws, and contradict New York City Local Laws and the Administrative Code.

The new Parks Department rules went into effect on July 19, 2010.  Phillips Nizer commenced a lawsuit on August 4, 2010, and filed the preliminary injunction motion on August 25, 2010, and simultaneously applied for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) to stop the defendants from enforcing the new rules.  The TRO was granted the same day by Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld, and the government’s subsequent attempts to stay and vacate the TRO were rejected, respectively, by Justice Rosalyn Richter of the Appellate Division and Justice Tingling.   

The Phillips Nizer team representing the artists includes litigation partner Jon Schuyler Brooks, real estate/government relations partner Kevin B. McGrath and litigation counsel Jeffrey L. Shore.

New York State Supreme Court, Index # 110344/10

Diane I. Dua, Joel Kaye, Bryan Close, Tenzin Wangdu, Jack Diamond, Bayo Iribhogbe, Robyn Wohl, George Moran and Artists United, Plaintiffs, v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (as a Municipal agency); Adrien Benepe (in his Official Capacity as the Parks Commissioner); City of New York (as a municipality); and Honorable Michael Bloomberg (in his Official Capacity as the Mayor), Defendants.

About Phillips Nizer LLP:
Phillips Nizer LLP has been engaged in a wide-ranging practice of domestic and international law for over 80 years.  Established by world-renowned trial attorney Louis Nizer, the firm consists of lawyers who are well-respected leaders in their fields.  The firm’s principal office is in New York City, with additional offices in Garden City, Long Island and Hackensack, New Jersey.  For more information about Phillips Nizer LLP, please visit: