TREfl”rnAKTisrsrnAUE^llfJl. f^Pnsn fCfi 5;,p,,.,.^rnw/ft /)^rov-/7/f ‘>TPE£r /trnsome cars as mam as 5,000 people werernon the waiting list”; and that “in somern cars not one license became available tornan applicant.”rnW hen arrested, artists are chargedrnwith section 20-4S3 of the AdministrativernCode, unlicensed general xending.rnTheir art is confiscated, damaged byrnmishandling, and often forfeited regardlessrnof the outcome of the case in criminalrncourt. According to artists who appliedrnfor a license, the were told bvrnenipknccs of the Department of ConsumerrnAffairs that thev, like booksellers,rnwere protected b- the First Amendmentrnand did not need a license to sell theirrnown art.rn”It’s a classic example of burcaucracvrnat work,” sa s I .edcrman. “We’re not allowedrnto get a license and then we’re arrestedrnfor not ha’ing one! The citrnspends a few million dollars arrestingrnartists, confiscating their work, forcingrntlicm througli a lengtli court processrnand then dismisses eer ease. Thisrnmakes it impossible for the artists or theirrnattorne s to appeal a guiltv decision or tornchallenge the eonstitutionalitv of thernN’cnding ordinance.”rnKnut M;)sco, one of tlic artists whorndisplays his art on Prince Street, recentlyrnreceived a call from “Carlos,” who saidrnhe’d just bought a large assortment ofrnconfiscated art at a city auction for $50,rnincluding fi e large window-paintings ofrnMaseo’s. “1 le offered to sell them backrnto me,” said Masco. “lie said the auctioneerrntold the crowd at the auctionrnthat if nobody bought the lot it would allrnbe destroved. I told him to hang them inrnhis apartment, that I wasn’t interested.”rnMasco is one of the plaintiffs in the federalrnsuit and intends to sue the cit for illegallyrnconfiscating and then selling liisrnart.rnWhile the artists claim that the citv’srntactic is to keep harassing them until fearrnof arrest and loss of their art dries themrnfrom the street, police department officialsrninsist tlie are “just doing their jobrnof enforcing the law.” Ellic Ali has displayedrnlier watercolors in front of thernPrince Street Post Office for five yearsrnwithout incident. Then, in October, shernwas arrested twice b} undercover copsrnwho, when asked bv onlookers how theyrncould find so much time to botherrnartists, bragged that they were “workingrnon overtime.” “Pm afraid to bring outrnmv best work,” savs Ellic. “”^bu neverrnknow from dav to da’ what the policernwill do.”rnAs Prince Street comes to life, Ledermanrnclimbs inside his “jail cell” and asksrnpassersby to sign a petition requestingrnMayor Giuliani and the City Council tornstop the arrests. “Do thev reallv arrestrnartists?” a middle-aged woman asks Lcdermanrnafter reading one of his signs.rn”That’s terrible! Artists are the bestrnthing on the streets. Why don’t theyrnbother somebody else!”rnAlthough Mayor Giuliani has donernnothing to stop the arrests or confiscations,rnhe publicly’ admitted at a town hallrnmeeting that “artists do have a FirstrnAmendment right to display and sellrntheir own art on the street.” Until theyrnwin their case in court, the artists willrncontinue keeping a watchful eye out forrnthe police, hi a cit’ administration alreadrnoverburdened with efforts to handlerncrime, social problems, and decayingrninfrastructure, artist displays may continuernto be a top priority.rnDespite the constant threat of arrestrnand confiscation, the artists are determinedrnto defend their right to sell theirrnart. “Ultimately,” says Lederman, “therncity will come to realize that we arc an asset,rnnot a liability. Art enriches the socialrnenvironment because it sensitizes peoplernto beautv, to ideas, and to their own andrneach other’s emotions. Right now wernha’e a society filled with frustrated, desensitizedrnindividuals. If young peoplerncould sec an opportunity to create andrnsell their own art instead of selling drugsrnor committing acts of meaningless violence,rnit might change this city in waysrnthat all the multimillion-dollar socialrnprograms have failed to do.”rnAnn Sandhorst is a freelance writer andrnphotographer Uving m Manhattan.rnAUGUST 1995/39rnrnrn