NEW YORK (June 15, 2006) This morning the 18 graduating MFA students from Brooklyn College, whose thesis exhibition at the Brooklyn War Memorial was shut down by NYC officials last month, filed suit against the City of New York, the NYC Parks Department and Brooklyn College, citing First Amendment violations and property damages.
The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York by their attorneys Norman Siegel and Steven Hyman of McLaughlin and Stern this morning. Plaintiffs in the case are all eighteen of the graduating MFA students with student Zoe Cohen, former President of the Brooklyn College Graduate Art Student Union, as the lead Plaintiff. Also joining the suit as a Plaintiff is Brooklyn Graduate Art Deputy and Professor of Art, Karin Giusti.
Named as Defendents are the City of New York, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Parks and Recreation Department, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner Julius Speigel, and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
The students’ attorney, former Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel, states “The free expression of the artistic voice is an interest that demands full protection. A clear message must be sent that government is not the appropriate body to judge the value of art. The Bloomberg Administration and Brooklyn College should not try to impose an artistic orthodoxy on the City. Surely, such a phenomenon would be an anathema to freedom of expression — part of New York City’s cherished heritage."
The eighteen students are satisfied to file the lawsuit, claiming that it is necessary for them to stand up to this violation of their First Amendment rights, and declare that City government should not be allowed to abuse its authority by attempting to prohibit the nature of content exhibited in public spaces, and that censorship should not be allowed to thrive in the City of New York.
Furthermore, the students want Brooklyn College to be held responsible for any damages which resulted from the institution’s unauthorized removal of their work from the Brooklyn War Memorial space. “Art students’ work needs to be respected by their colleges and protected by the First Amendment rights which protect all creative expression,” student Zoe Cohen states. “We need to hold Brooklyn College and the City Government accountable for their actions.”
The other Plaintiffs in the case are Carla Aspenberg, Jill Auckenthaler, John Avelluto, David Davron, Susan C. Dessel, Carl James Ferrero, Carrie Fucile, Pamela Gordon, Yejin Jun, Diane Kosup, Marni Kotak, Augusto Marin, Akiko Mori, Christopher Moss, Sarah Phillips, Megan Piontkowski and Tamas Veszi.
The student show, Plan B, mounted as a graduation requirement for the 2006
Master of Fine Arts Degree at Brooklyn College of the City University of New
York, was suddenly shut down at about 3:30PM on Thursday, May 4, 2006, by
Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner, Julius Spiegel, who deemed the work not "appropriate for families.” On Monday, May 8, Brooklyn College removed the students’ artwork from the Brooklyn War Memorial without their permission, damaging some of the works. On May 24, the students held the re-opening of their exhibition, titled Plan B Prevails, at 70 Washington Street, in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The exhibition closed June 16th.
In the News:
» Art Students sue city, school over closed exhibit, from Associated Press
Students plan to bring lawsuit after exhibit is shut down, from The Washington Post