By Meredith Kurz
Police officials from the 20th precinct listened to a litany of complaints about aggressive street vendors at a meeting on Monday, but said there’s not much they can do to deal with the issue.
Captain Michael Falcon, the precinct’s commanding officer, was met with a barrage of complaints about the struggle to control large clusters of vendors who residents say have been urinating on the streets, harassing pedestrians, playing loud music and cursing past midnight, illegally having items on the ground, fist fights, unsupervised pit bulls, lounge chairs, and creating a dining area right on the street. A building supervisor reviewed the daily ordeal of attempting to do his job with these aggressive, non-compliant vendors.
Captain Falcon explained that a) the selling of books is a First Amendment right and the largest bookseller had successfully sued in the past, b) this problem has been brought up for over 20 years and it’s very difficult to enforce because of legal restrictions and c) the police can only enforce the law – the legislators need to change the laws in order for this issue to be cleared up and to contact their city council member Helen Rosenthal to rewrite legislation so he and his police force can enforce it.
A large contingency of attendees said they had tried and received no response from Helen Rosenthal, or left messages, and Ms. Rosenthal never returned calls or emails. Ms. Rosenthal’s representative was at the meeting and said that she was proposing some new legislation that he did not specify, to address this issue.
A meeting attendee suggested the concerned community members create a committee to address this sidewalk crowding and harassment issue, and that the police department cannot enforce laws that don’t exist. Here’s a PDF file on how to create a committee:
The audience kept asking “What are the laws?” Here’s a link to the law.
Here are some other links that address this issue:
Going physically to her office and going in as a large group was strongly suggested, as this shows unity of purpose and concern. Her meeting representative said that Friday was the day she was in the office and available for citizen concerns. Helen Rosenthal’s office address is 563 Columbus Avenue at 87th Street.
Here is a partial excerpt of New York City Administrative Code, Title 20, Consumer Affairs § 20-465 paraphrased:
- 20-465 Restrictions on the placement of vehicles, pushcarts and stands; vending in certain areas prohibited
- No general vendor shall engage in any vending business on any sidewalk unless such sidewalk has at least a twelve foot wide clear pedestrian path….
- In no event shall any pushcart or stand be placed on any part of a sidewalk other than that which abuts the curb
- No general vendor shall occupy more than eight linear feet of public space parallel to the curb in the operation of a vending business, and in addition, no general vendor operating any vending business on any sidewalk shall occupy more than three linear feet to be measured from the curb toward the property line.
- No vending pushcart, stand or goods shall be located against display windows of fixed location businesses, nor shall they be within twenty feet from an entranceway to any building, store, etc.
- No general vendor shall vend within any bus stop or taxi stand, or within ten feet of any driveway, any subway entrance or exit, or any corner. … ten feet from any corner
- (Here are the ‘protected areas’ where no vendor can vend: ) “No general vendor shall vend on any street which is in a C4, C5, or C6 zoning district, on in the area bounded on the east by Second Avenue, on the south by Thirtieth Street, on the west by Ninth Avenue and Columbus Avenue and on the north by Sixty Fifth Street…
- The reason for the ‘5th Avenue and Madison Avenue’ restrictions is traffic count, allegedly.
The next precinct meeting will be Monday, November 30th.