NYCLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Huge Permit Fees For Activist Group Events in City Parks

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
July 18, 2001 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–A new scheme authorizing the Parks Department to charge upwards of $100,000 to groups wishing to stage advocacy events in city parks violates the First Amendment, the New York Civil Liberties Union charged in a federal lawsuit filed today.

“”Public parks in New York City historically have been used for demonstrations, rallies, and advocacy, and the Parks Department has no power to impose huge permit fees on those wishing to hold such events in Central Park or in any other park,”” said NYCLU Interim Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

The NYCLU filed the suit on behalf of Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1973 to promote bicycling and walking and to reduce automobile use in New York City.

Last week, the Parks Department informed the group that it would have to pay $6,000 to obtain a permit for a bicycling-advocacy event the group wishes to hold at the northern edge of Central Park on September 9, 2001.

The Parks Department came under fire last fall when it began requiring large and seemingly arbitrary “”donations”” of groups holding events in city parks. According to the NYCLU lawsuit, “”City Council Speaker Peter Vallone compared the Parks Departments practices to ‘a used-car salesman sizing up his customer before quoting a price.'””

In response, the City published proposed rules concerning the fees. But, the NYCLU lawsuit said, “”no written guidelines exist concerning the setting of fees for events in City parks under this scheme,”” and the fees bear no relation to administrative costs the city might incur in connection with the events.

The NYCLU lawsuit said that the Transportation Alternatives event should be treated as a demonstration, which under the new rules would only require a standard permit fee of $25.00 for events involving more than 20 persons.

The name of the lawsuit is Transportation Alternatives, Inc. v. City of New York and Henry J. Stern, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Complaint No. OICV6465. NYCLU Staff Attorney Christopher Dunn is handling the case for the NYCLU.

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