The book vendors who normally set up stands on Broadway between 72nd and 74th Streets were nowhere to be found this week. Police have removed the books, a 20th precinct official told us, but we’re still gathering details on what precipitated the move. “The unattended property was removed and safeguarded,” the official told us.
“Since returning to work on Tuesday (I work on this block) I noticed that a substantial portion of the books kept overnight were gone,” one tipster told us. “A police car was parked on the block all day. The owner of the books did come to his usual seat late in the afternoon. That was the last time we saw him this week. Today [Thursday], all the books are gone from the entire stretch of the block and the cop car is replaced with a cop van.”
“We saw a police vehicle there hosing down the spots on the sidewalk at about 8:30 a.m. with only shadows/stains where the tables used to be,” another tipster wrote Thursday morning. “Just curious how someone got this done after years of loitering.”
The 20th precinct has fielded complaints about the book-sellers for years — some locals say the men harass them and take up too much space — but the police have said at public meetings that they are protected under the First Amendment. Some vendors had briefly been shut down last fall, but they came back.
City Council member Helen Rosenthal had previously said she was looking for a way to get the vendors banned from that stretch of Broadway.
Update: A spokesperson for Rosenthal sent us a statement: “I’m thrilled the Administration took action to remove these vendors, who unlawfully stored their items (including books) overnight and unattended– practically using the sidewalk as their private storage space for years.”
After a follow-up question, her spokesperson did not explain what she meant by “administration.”