October/November 1999, p.15

Freedom of Assembly Threatened in City's Parks

Spontaneous traffic calming rides like this one would require $25 and a 30 day wait for a permit.In August, the Parks Department announced that it would begin enforcing a little-known 1989 rule regulating City park users. The rule demands that groups of 20 people or more apply for a permit 30 days in advance, and pay a fee of $25. This rule would make gatherings like spontaneous traffic calming rides in Central or Prospect Park punishable by a $50 fine.

Commissioner Stern and Mayor Giuliani say that the rule is to protect the City's parks from damage from large groups, and to track who is using the parks. However, parks and free speech advocates have condemned the rule as a bureaucratic infringement on their right to freely assemble, and an affront to the fundamental function of parks as social and community centers. At a raucous public hearing on Sept. 22, Transportation Alternatives-along with the ACLU, the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, the Parks Council and numerous concerned citizens-testified against the 20 person permit rule. No one spoke in favor of it.

Write Commissioner Stern and let him know that you want the Parks Department to nullify the 20 person permit rule.

Commissioner Henry J. Stern
City of New York Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
New York, NY 10021