Powder puff! Chalk artist sues city for $1M
The Brooklyn Paper
Artist Ellis Gallagher, who has been arrested three times by the NYPD for drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, is now suing the city for $1 million to punish cops for imprisoning him for pursuing a legal art form.
It’s gotten so bad that Gallagher says he’s moved to Williamsburg from Cobble Hill “because of so much harassment from the 84th and 76th precincts.”
Gallagher was first arrested in October, 2007 — ironically after being quoted in a Brooklyn Paper story about a 6-year-old girl who had become Public Enemy Number 1 after getting a city warning for scribbling with chalk on her sidewalk.
Gallagher had another rodeo with the po-po last Sept. 2 — in fact, he was collared twice on that day for chalk “graffiti” on Flatbush Avenue between Vanderbilt and Clinton avenues. Those arrests triggered the lawsuit.
All three summonses have been thrown out, but he faced a year of repeated hearings “to defend himself against the unlawful prosecution initiated by [the NYPD],” court documents state.
City law states that sidewalk chalk scribbles can be deemed “graffiti,” but only if they are “not consented to by the owner of the commercial building or residential building.” In the case of city property, Gallagher’s attorney says that the chalk perp must have an “intent to damage” the property — and as we all know, even a drizzle can wash away chalk.
If $1 million seems like a lot of scratch over some sidewalk marks, lawyers think otherwise. Sometimes, big payouts are necessary to force officials to change the way they do business.
“If you were to sue for $5,000, it would have no effect on future illegal summonses,” said Gallagher’s lawyer, Paul Hale. “The only way to stop the city’s blatant and illegal activity is by going for the pocketbook.”
And he ought to know — Hale is also defending unicycle-rider Kyle Peterson, who is suing the city for $3 million because cops keep giving him tickets for riding “illegally” on the sidewalk, when we all know that it’s legal.