Public VS Private Space – Controversy at the Toy Fair

(Click on pictures for larger images.)

The annual Toy Industry Association Fair is taking place inside the Javits Center as Edith, Susan, Bev, Joan P and I study song sheets and begin to sing on the sidewalk outside. Later we will be told the sidewalk we are standing on is private property. We will be told to go stand on the narrow strip behind us at the curb on 11th Avenue near 35th Street.


We are here to protest war toys and toys that celebrate violence — particularly the Toy-Of-The-Year winner in the boy toy category, Hasbro’s Stampede Blaster. The writing on the box speaks for the toy and for Hasbro.

Launch an all-out assault with the fully automatic Stampede ESCI. Unleash a storm of darts from the extended 18-dart clip, and reload in a hurry….

The people on the awards committee — what were they thinking?


Barbara engages two sympathetic toy fair attendees in conversation – is she standing on public or private space?


Kallyn hands out valentines – on public or private space? We sing, and sing and sing. With us is David Walllace who captured our message in this powerful video. Many, many thanks David.


Security tells us we are on private property. We sing.


Security calls the police and when the officer arrives a discussion ensues about the sidewalk in front of the Javits Center in particular, and about public vs private space in general. There is a wide sidewalk in front of the Javits center…


Here’s a view of our spot from Google Maps. The Javits center roof is dark. The image was taken some time ago and does not show the scaffolding. The sidewalk is about as wide as two traffic lanes and we’re standing near the “C” in “Convention.”


The same view with the so-called private sidewalk in red and the public strip in green.

We’ve done what we came to do here and head north toward 41st Street where Hasbro has a separate exhibit. On the way we stop at the 37th Street entrance to the Javits Center where an even greater swath of sidewalk and roadway has been declared private.


We go in to a space where commercial connections are made. Some old time lyrics run through my head…

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door…*

The public agora is closing down piece by piece. Every day more of the discourse, the exchange of ideas that makes a democracy vibrant and strong is taking place in spaces like this under corporate control.

We sing. People listen. The fair attendees seem to be divided into two camps; the people who dismiss us impatiently, and those that thank us enthusiastically.

On to Hasbro where…


A piece of 41st Street has been made into a private museum for Hasbro, velvet ropes and all. The truck is promoting transformer toys.


The security guy on the right tells us “just don’t block the door.” Bev who does not slow down in the presence of security hangs a pass to the exhibit around her neck (yes we have one) and marches in. Blink your eyes and they’re throwing her out.

Whose streets? We have work to do.

– Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photos 1 – 6: ©2011 David Wallace
Photos 7 & 8 Google Maps
Photos 9 – 11: Eva-Lee Baird

*Song by Les Rice ©Stormking Music 1950

4 thoughts on “Public VS Private Space – Controversy at the Toy Fair

  1. Wow! Those are powerful displays – showing how little of the so-called sidewalk is left for the so-called public, AND THEN how much of the street can be commandeered by the private corporation. It certainly tells how money talks. I wonder how much the city got paid to rent out part of 41st street. Will it cover the one day or one week salary of an art teacher in the public schools? An art teacher could surely direct a boy’s attention to more profitable activities than he would use with a Stampede Blaster.


  2. What a great way to curb freedom of speech, take away more and more places for us to peacefully assemble and give voice to our concerns. Clearly, those in power have little shame. This is an issue that is fundamental to everything we do — and one we can’t back away from.


  3. Excellent documentation, with illustrations, of ongoing process of public space being transferred to the private domain. Is this an issue for our NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio Why not contact him requesting an investigation re: this practice that will result in reversing public space already transferred and stop the ongoing process.

    And just where does “freedom of speech” relate to this erosion of public space? I see it as directly related. It must be protected and the only way it will be is when the public takes action! You go Grannies and all of your supporters.

    David Wallace’s video is poignant and awesome!


  4. Once again the Granny Peace Brigade illustrates the way so-called corporate personhood has attempted to diminish the voices of actual citizens. a People have real needs other than shopping space. Great story, Eva-Lee. Keep those voices singing, sisters. We shall not be diminished on the sidewalk or in the mall.


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