Washington Square Park Performers Banned From Vending Within 50 Feet Of Monuments

What would Washington Square Park be without its staple array of jazz musicians and dexterous acts like Tic and Tac? According to the city's parks department, the park would be a more enjoyable space and is issuing hefty fines to make sure it stays that way.

In order to limit commerce and solicitations from taking place in the popular park, a new law is cracking down on performers from vending within 50 feet of a monument or landmark in Washington Square Park, a park well known and celebrated for its convergence of artists, musicians, and performers.

While the new rule was officially instituted over a year ago, park officials only began enforcing fines ranging from $250 to $1,000 in October.

Performers and free speech advocates are blasting the parks department for inhibiting the way many make a living and for regulating "to a point where free speech doesn't exist."

Many are also seeing the rule as particularly troublesome for Washington Square Park because of its lack of space in close proximity to monuments including the park's famed arch, fountain, Garibaldi statue, and more.

Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe defends the regulations as a necessary means for civility:

It's the whole issue of the tragedy of the commons. If you allow all the performers and all the vendors to do whatever they want to do, pretty soon there's no park left for people who want to use them for quiet enjoyment. This is a way of having some control and not 18 hours of carnival-like atmosphere

But critics are seeing the rule as an unnecessary resolution. President of the city's Park Advocates Geoffrey Croft says:

Performers bring life, culture and safety to our parks, and yet the city is harassing and trying to intimidate them. This Bloomberg policy is an embarrassment to the city and must stop immediately.