The High Line has a reputation for being an artsy park, located as it is partly in the Chelsea gallery neighborhood, with rotating art exhibitions and sculpture and video installations. But apparently the park isn’t quite as arts-friendly as it would have us believe: a week and a half ago, an art vendor on the High Line was attacked by a maintenance worker. The park employee hit the vendor in the face with a walkie-talkie, leaving him in need of an ambulance and stitches.
The report of this unsettling incident comes from Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, who spoke with the vendor, Iddi Amadu, as well as other witnesses on the scene. Amadu said that on Friday, December 14, he had packed up his things and was waiting for the elevator when park worker Kenya Robinson started yelling at him. “He was screaming, ‘I’m talking to you. You have to listen to me when I talk to you. You’re not listening, man. I told you to stop,'” Amadu told Croft.
Amadu claims he told Robinson to leave him alone and tried to get in the elevator, but Robinson blocked his way and knocked over his cart. Robinson then hit Amadu twice on the face with a walkie-talki and left him bleeding on the ground. And then there’s this:
While Amadu was lying on the ground bleeding, Robinson was doing push-ups a few feet away.
“He’s getting ready for more fight[,” Amadu said.]
One witness corroborated Amadu’s story, saying Robinson was “bragging that he dropped the guy. He was proud: ‘Yeah I hit him.'”
It gets even more disturbing: Amadu claims that while he was lying on the ground bleeding, no other High Line employees came over to help; they simply ignored him. Then, when the police came, a cop kicked Amadu and told him to go home, and finally, when he was taken in an ambulance to the hospital, the officer riding with him was given orders to handcuff him. Amadu was handcuffed for three hours, in the ambulance and in the hospital.
According to the NYPD, Robinson was eventually arrested by Park Police and charged with assault.
Amadu says the incident is evidence of a larger problem, of how the park treats artists: “They don’t want the artists there,” he said. “They make it clear WE don’t pay THEM anything, but the vendors who work for the High Line, it’s OK because they are getting the money. They make it like they are doing us a favor. We have a right to be there.”
While the High Line has generally been celebrated as a huge urban achievement, some people have criticized the pristine, highly disciplined nature of the park; this summer, Vanishing New York’s Jeremiah Moss published a scathing op-ed about the changes it has wrought in the neighborhood.
Whatever your take, it seems hard to dispute that a park whose image is so bound up with art should be concerned about treating artists — big name or small — well. Friends of the High Line refused to answer Croft’s questions about the incident, saying only that it was “under review.”