By Jessica Brockington
City Council member Helen Rosenthal said at a police community council meeting on Monday night that she’s been looking for ways to ban street vendors from Broadway between 72nd and 74th street, after hearing from Upper West Siders who say the vendors antagonize them and take up too much space.
She said that she floated an idea recently with lawyers for the Land Use Committee of the City Council to have these two blocks added to a citywide register for locations where any vending is banned. She was told that the Board that put together that register has disbanded so there is actually no way for blocks to be added.
She reminded everyone that the city is revising the vending laws altogether and she is determined to keep her voice in the discussion. She’s hoping there will be sections of the UWS where no street vendors are allowed.
Special Operations Lieutenant Eileen Lazarus said the conditions team has a daily presence between 72nd and 74th Street. She indicated they have issued 15-17 Environmental Control Board Summonses in that area in the last 2 or 3 weeks. “That’s what we can do for the book vendors.” Her team has been going out with tape measures to ensure the tables being used are no larger than 8’x3’ and that the tables are not close to street trees or fixed objects.
“We utilize parking summonses at those locations too,” she told the crowd. If there are harassment complaints, they can also take criminal action.
Lt. Daniel J. Albano, from the NYPD’s Legal Bureau, was on hand to answer questions about street vendors. He indicated that summonses can range from $50 to $1,000 and that some of the vendors routinely pay their summonses.
“One in particular has been a thorn in this community,” he said. “But he pays his summonses.”
“Food vendors are allowed to have lights and electrical off a generator,” he said. But he added that managing the City street vendors is an enormous challenge for the City. “We went from the quintessential NY pushcart to a restaurant.” The owner of the two hot dog carts in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art pays $1.6 million to the Parks Department for his concession, he pointed out.
One audience member, however, said he thought the community could work with the vendors to manage the relationship better, instead of trying to ban them. “What’s the balance of our 1st amendments rights as residents versus theirs? If they are getting out of line, let’s work and coexist with these people under the 1st amendment umbrella. The vending laws most likely won’t be changing in our lifetimes.”
Photo by Meredith Kurz.