books broadway4
An image from a video of officers confiscating books on Broadway.

By Jessica Brockington

Kirk Davidson lost another table of books to the 20th Precinct this afternoon. Caught on camera by Philippe Wahlstrom, a colleague of Davidson’s, it was the latest in a series of tactics intended to permanently remove the book vendors on Broadway between 72nd and 74th Street.

Davidson says he lined up four associates to watch each of his four tables so he could go home, take a shower and change clothes. He has been sleeping alongside his books for the last few days and said he needed a break. Police confiscated the books earlier this month because they considered them unattended property. But Davidson, who hires others to watch the books, returned and vowed to stay.

Wahlstrom says the moment one of the associates stepped away, the police stepped in and started removing the books. When another of Davidson’s colleagues attempted to claim the books on Davidson’s behalf, that man was told by the police he had no rights to the books and continued to fill a large plastic garbage bag with Davidson’s books.

Davidson told West Side Rag he intended to go to the precinct to be issued a summons, and to retrieve the books if they’ll give them to him.

Locals have been complaining for years about the vendors; they say they clutter the sidewalk and harass people.

Officers have been monitoring the book-sellers extra closely for the past few weeks, with a patrol car stationed on Broadway between 72nd and 73rd street. Some residents have questioned whether it’s worth the police time. “How are 5 police cars and 10 officers on 72nd and Broadway a good use of taxpayer money because of some book tables?” wrote Erica on twitter, addressing Councilmember Helen Rosenthal and the 20th precinct. Rosenthal has supported the book confiscations.

NEWS | 76 comments | permalink
    1. Mary says:

      That guy has told me on several occasions to F off while exiting a cab on that street. He is rude and he does harass people. If he wasn’t a total jerk, the people in the neighborhood wouldn’t be so adamant that he get out. Do not feel sorry for him.

    2. Erica says:

      I’m famous 😉 had no idea my Tweet was going to be used. Though I’ve been sweared at just for stopping in front of the table and not looking, there has to be a happy medium between wasting police resources and allowing people to make an honest living.

    3. Erica says:

      Didn’t know my tweet was being used. Though seriously, isn’t there a happy medium between wasting police time and people making an honest living? I’ve been sweared at for just stopping without looking. What about permits, etc?

      • Linda Holowitz says:

        How is it making an “Honest living” when the vendor (in most probability, paying no taxes) defies laws pertaining to table size and leaving goods overnight? There is also the issue of he or his friends/helpers harassing pedestrians, which I have personally witnessed. Sorry, but I do not feel this is an asset to our neighborhood.

    4. Woody says:

      Not a waste of taxpayer money and police resources. I feel safer knowing that there’s always a police car in that busy area. And if they keep enforcing the vendor laws, extra points.

      • dannyboy says:

        I read:

        “5 police cars & 10 officers on 72nd&bdwy”

        Exactly how unsafe were you?

        • Kev says:

          That is excessive.

          The booksellers on other blocks box up and remove their tables and books each night and don’t curse out residents walking by. This isn’t “We hate books and booksellers,” this is, “This particular man and his friends are a menace and take over the sidewalk.”

          • dannyboy says:

            I read: “I feel safer knowing that there’s always a police car in that busy area.”

            You must have read something different. Somewhere else perhaps?

        • Woody says:

          Is there any anything that you don’t have a snide sanctimonious comment about? Is there anything you don’t have a comment about period?

          The exaggeration about 5 police cars and 10 officers stationed there are ludicrous and wouldn’t withstand fact-checking.

          • Erica says:

            To Woody

            Yesterday at exactly the time I tweeted there were five cars (I counted them) with lights flashing and 10 police officers from those cars standing around waiting for the man to leave the table. There’s your fact check.

            • Woody says:

              It’s common practice for a large presence of police support when officers are dealing with a situation that could go awry. It’s not like there are always 5 cars/10 officers at that location as your comment would have others believe.

              The reporter put your tweet “How are 5 police cars and 10 officers on 72nd and Broadway a good use of taxpayer money because of some book tables?” right after her writing “Officers have been monitoring the book-sellers extra closely for the past few weeks, with a patrol car stationed on Broadway between 72nd and 73rd street. Some residents have questioned whether it’s worth the police time.” Chalk it up to sloppy writing.

              If I went to public school and wrote a report like that, I would expect you to be outraged at the waste of taxpayer money that funded my education.

            • robert says:

              In ref to the comment of- How are 5 police cars and 10 officers on 72nd and Broadway a good use of taxpayer money because of some book tables?”

              They have NOTHING repeat NOTHING to do with the vendor operation. They are part of the depts. anti terror teams, They move from station to station. They are also sent to places like important building and Times Square. Most of the cars there clearly had the anti terror teams markings on them. They stay in one location and then move on to the next one all day and night. Pls be more careful about saying “resources are being wasted” when they are there to keep you safe.

            • dannyboy says:

              So Woody,
              You don’t like the writing on WSR and you don’t like the Comments. I’m sensing a pattern here.

            • gilbert says:

              Erica, your famous tweet is going to your head! Just because there were 5 cars doesn’t mean they were all there for him! Logic and common sense, will tell you that it doesn’t take 5 cars to monitor this book seller. Think outside the box a little. Kudos on having your tweet mentioned. Good bye to the book seller, you won’t be missed by me.

          • dannyboy says:

            @Woody, if pressed to choose between Erica’s eyewiness account, and your blatent denial based on what; anger or hysteria, or just being oppositional…I choose Erica’s eyewitness account.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          thanks for your ongoing comments, Dannyboy. don’t let them intimidate you!

          • lynn says:

            I agree, I always find dannyboy entertaining and informative even if we don’t agree on everything. 🙂

            • dannyboy says:

              Dear Lynn,

              Let me introduce myself. I am “Sean’s” agent.

              Mr. Sean (nom de plume) is creating a series of works, based on “The Rag” (about an imaginary neighborhood, which no longer exists). His body of work includes the following Working Titles:

              “Overheard Verbatum in the Strangest Places”
              “People Comment the Strangest Things”
              “If There’s Money in it, I’m In”.

              Please arrange for distribution through Mr Kirk Davidson.

              You’ll get your percentage of the bonanza.

              With Admiration,

            • lynn says:

              Thanks dannyboy, now I can retire in style. 😉

    5. dannyboy says:

      This video’s going viral!

    6. jor says:

      I believe the 20th precinct is under orders to “clean” the UWS of the “undesirables”, the plebians and make it more sensible and livable to the patricians — the mostly whites and gentrifiers.

      I know someone, a person of color, who works at Starbucks at 73rd and Columbus but lives in the outer boroughs, and often times when he needs to open-up and has to be there in the wee hours of the morning, he would drive and spend a lot of time driving around where he can get suitable parking for the day. On a few occasions, the NYPD has stopped him for no reason, and when they can’t find any violations, they slapped him with a summons something like a loud exhaust, or a tinted window. He appeared to fight the summons and they have been dropped.

      But if one where not able to go to a court or precinct to fight the summons, due to other obligations and cannot afford a lawyer to appear in their behalf, or simply out of resignation and feeling defeatedm they have to pay that summons. This is the tactic that Rosenthal or the UWS power that be to rid UWS of what they may seem as an attack to their sanitized and entitled livelihoods. Getting rid of these book vendors is one of them. They are an offense to Bloomberg’s ‘godsend billionaires’. Soon, UWS, and the rest of Manhattan, will be like Montauk, just like Amanda Burden wanted.

      • Woody says:

        “in the wee hours of the morning, he would drive and spend a lot of time driving around”

        “they slapped him with a summons something like a loud exhaust, or a tinted window.”

        Loud exhaust, especially while he’s continually driving around in the wee hours of the morning disturbing the tranquil quiet hours, and tinted windows ARE violations. So what didn’t he do wrong?

        • AnD says:

          Woody – how hard is it to see that the summons were, at least from the original writer’s perspective, just an excuse for stopping the guy and having something to show for it? “Sure sounded loud to me, and it was dark, and I thought the windows were tinted.” Doesn’t make it the case just because the cop wrote it on the summons.

          No concept of what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes? Can’t imagine why so many black people have stories about DWB?

        • Erica says:

          They were not anti terrorism, they were there expressly to wait until the man walked away from the table to take his books. Further to that on my way back from where I was going four of them were loading up the books into plastic bags and another two the tables and chairs into their cruisers. I’m guessing you believe Trump is a valid candidate for president as well. Get a life dude.

      • Lily Goldstein says:

        Thank you for saying this. I just walked down Broadway from 92nd Street to 73rd Street and there were a couple of booksellers with tables and not one of them were being bothered by the police.

        I have almost been hit three times in the last two days by Citibikes going the wrong way on a one way street (73rd and RSD) and by cyclists going right through that red light when I am crossing the street to walk my dogs. I see cops, no one ever gets a ticket. 73rd and RSD is a regular place that folks make right turns on a red light and bikes plow through the lights. No one is in charge and it is mayhem.

    7. Sherman says:

      I always wondered who actually buys these books.

      They are used and look dirty. Who knows where they’ve been.

      I wouldn’t touch one, let alone have it in my apartment.

      • Diego says:

        Well arent you fancy

        • Oh wait…so it’s fancy now to not want to buy garbage from a mentally ill homeless menace??

          You must enjoy living among filth and that is your perrogative, neighbor….have at it. I saw an old New York Magazine in the gutter the other day, I should have saved it for you.:)

    8. David Collins says:

      If these guys want to sell books or whatever else then they should rent/lease a store. The police would not bother them then.

      Otherwise, the police has the right – and duty – to get them off the streets.

      • dannyboy says:

        Not the case. Nice try though.

        • David Collins says:

          Not the case for what exactly?!

          You want to sell something, you get a permit or license and go through the proper application process with NYC or you buy or lease a store.

          What exactly do you not understand about such a basis concept?

          • ericuws says:

            If you do some research you will see that for books, you do not need a permit. It is covered by the First Amendment – that is not my opinion, but a the finding of the judicial system. But that doesn’t mean you can do what you want with setting up your stand. There is a rule book – these vendors have been violating those rules for years. The most flagrant violations are tables that are too big, too many tables per vendor, and leaving the tables unattended. The way they are set up now fits the rules (although setting up chairs away from your stand and playing music may be a violation). If you support the vendors, then you should be happy with the new setup – it leaves room for other vendors to set up – maybe better behaved and with better books. The old set-up was racketeering – one guy claiming the whole block for himself. If you don’t care for the vendors, well there is not much you can do, except report bad behavior to the police, which should be easy since they are close by. As an aside – I like that there are police around – that location is a hub, and it is nice to know where to find them. I am sure that if a more pressing matter comes over the radio, they will be on their way – they do a great job!

            • Peter says:

              Yes, we all know about how selling books allows for other rules. But rules still apply! And these folks are violating those rules (not to mention doing much more than just selling books).

              The police and law enforcement are on the right side here.

              If people are up in arms now, then what would happen if we did not have the most liberal mayor in America!?!?!?

              At some point the BS just has to stop.

    9. H says:

      There is a solution that would make almost everyone content. The vendor sets up one table and packs of at the end of the day. He gets to sell his books and the public gets an aesthetically pleasing sidewalk with room to roam when he is selling and not selling. If he is verbally abusive and causing a disruption (or as others have said urinating in public) he should be ticketed for any offenses on the books that would apply. Is it a waste for two officers to be watching this one vendor? Absolutely. But this is likely the only way to change this vendors behavior since he obviously was taking advantage of the fact that law enforcement was not enforcing the laws previously. I’m sure other vendors are allowed to leave their product overnight unattended with the difference being they keep their space clean, aren’t abusive to the public and thus do not create a situation where it becomes a problem for local politicians and the police to get involved. Had this vendor stuck to one table and was pleasant this would be a non-issue.

      • lmn says:

        Exactly. There are book sellers on Broadway between 85 and 86th. They cart their books out every morning, and back them up every day. There are a couple of older men who sit there with them all day, mostly chatting to each other..never harassing anyone who walks by. No one seems bothered by them because they go about their business quietly and respect the rules. Simple as that.

    10. I’ve lived on 72nd & Broadway for 15 yearsand here’s how safe we feel:
      They congregate during the day on the sidewalk and hang out on old office chairs and scream, and swear abuse at each other.
      Last fall one of them attacked the fruit vendor with a hammer and sent him to the hospital.
      My daughter and I were followed from the movies on 42nd St all the way home by one of them two years ago. He walked about 10 feet behind us with a big weird smile on his face not taking his eyes off my child.
      They congregate after dark and yell at each other and play loud music till 3 or 4 in the morning.Obviously high.
      This is how safe we feel on 72nd St.
      The rule is simple: One table- One vendor and take it home with you in the evening.
      Do not leave it unattended.
      These people connected to Davidson are an absolute menace. I would never let my child walk past them alone.

      • Sarah says:

        A street vendor on 72nd St. followed you all the way from…42nd St.? Sure you’re able to tell all “these people” apart?

        I actually think it’s fair for the cops to be enforcing the ordinances (no overnights, one per table, and obviously no abusive behavior), but reading the people defending the cops really makes me doubt their case.

    11. Tom Lee says:

      As others have said – If they want to set-up a commercial or retail business, a business of any type, then they would be best served by getting a store. If they can’t afford a store, then the answer is not to establish a business on the sidewalk.

      • dannyboy says:

        You must know that booksellers provide books on the sidewalks. Alternatively, you must have read the Comment above about just this. C’mon

    12. Gretchen says:

      Yippeeeeee!!!!!! Go NYPD and Helen Rosenthal! The streets again belong to the taxpaying public without the thugs on the UWS’s Skid Row.

    13. Caren says:

      Somthing is wrong with this…the vendor on Columbus between 67/68 NEVER MOVES HIS STUFF and contantly pollutes the area with his disgusting cigars. Perhaps he has a deal with the powers that be that the other vendor doesn’t choose to acquiesce to?

      What do you think.

    14. Woody, I think you are new around here but Wow!!! I couldnt agree more with your statement about DannyBoy:

      “Is there any anything that you don’t have a snide sanctimonious comment about? Is there anything you don’t have a comment about period?”

      I have been thinking the exact same thing for weeks….hahahah

      This guy really needs a hobby

      • dannyboy says:

        MONK MONKstein,


        Brilliant minds think alike? Hah!

        Twins separated at birth, perhaps? You two do deserve each other. Read a book to each other and learn something.

    15. ME says:

      What the vendor doesn’t seem to get is that he isn’t fighting with the police he’s fighting with his neighbors, the people who pay to live on Broadway & 72nd street.

    16. Mel Stone says:

      We now have a book vendor on the west side of Broadway between 94/95 street, keeps the area dirty and is hardly there. Looks as if they are moving up north now! Wrote to Helen Rosenberg and have not heard back. The 90s had its share of problems, we do not need this too.

    17. Toni says:

      Why didn’t you post my comment??? Because I came out in favor of the booksellers?? I think it’s great to have these tables chock full of used books for sale in the street, as long as passersby are not harassed.

    18. Gary Schulze says:

      Leave these people along for God’s sake and send the cops into Riverside Park to deal with the thieves and muggers.

    19. Big Earl says:

      I suggest he finds a store to rent and sell his books that way. Oh wait, he doesn’t want to do that. Bye-bye. Good riddance!

    20. Lenny G. says:

      I live in the area and pass the booksellers very often. They do not harass anybody that I can see. They don’t obstruct the sidewalks or create any problems. I do not know who is complaining, but it must be some bitter persons who just have nothing else to do. They have been there for years, and have never been a problem. Leave them alone!

    21. Smithy says:

      There were at least two tables back out there today when we passed by around 3pm – no police.

    22. Robert Levit says:

      These vendors are/were part of the intellectual atmosphere of the Upper West Side. We should ask how we can support their efforts rather than eliminate their presence.

    23. Eleanor Seepes says:

      Cities all over the world have streetside booksellers and are part of the local culture. Stop harrassing them!

    24. Susan Kagan says:

      I regularly stop and look over the books being sold on the street. I have NEVER been harassed by any of the vendors. I consider those book sellers a valuable addition to NYC life.

    25. Edie G. says:

      A few “quality of life” kvetchers ruined it for everyone else. Your property values only influence your ego and stand to ruin a very progressive neighborhood for no reason at all other than your own personal satisfaction and gratification. The book sellers have been on that corner for years and if you can’t take a few open containers and a little loud music then I have to ask why did you seek New York City out in the first place? It hasn’t been Giuliani Time in years and I have to wonder if your real estate agent gave you the wrong impression of where you were moving. Long live the book sellers.

      • No patience says:

        The bottom line, regardless of all the pontificating here, is they must GO. These booksellers have taken over our streets unlawfully, are harassing pedestrians, and seem to think they own these blocks. The vendor outside Chase bank near Boltons has set up several chaise lounges and lined up his various meals on the building ledges. I don’t go into any of the actual businesses that are blocked and I no longer bank there. Where do they live that makes them think it’s THESE blocks that belong to them??

        • dannyboy says:

          “The bottom line, regardless of all the pontificating here, is they must GO.”
          – No patience

          Patience, in itself, is a Virtue
          Issuing edicts, not-so-much.

    26. Tom Lee says:

      Not sure why it’s so hard for some people here to understand such a basic concept.

      If you want to sell something you either apply for a license/permit from NYC that will allow you to do so or you buy/lease a store.

      Otherwise, let me introduce you to Ebay.

      That’s it folks. Everything else is BS and that is why the cops are doing what they are doing.

      • Sarah says:

        Have you totally ignored what has been stated repeatedly in comments on this issue? You don’t need a permit to sell books. The courts have found that such a requirement is unconstitutional.

        I understand not knowing that off the top of your head, but it’s pretty easy to understand once you’ve been told.

    27. Maryjane says:

      as of 8:30am: 3tables,feet up drinking a coors light, no police in sight

    28. Westside_Mimi says:

      I was unduly harassed yesterday as I walked past 73rd & Bwy. These folks are abusing the system as well as my right to walk unmolested. They are a blight to the neighborhood. Moreover they are not a legit business. For you bleeding hearts out there, give them a real job so they pay their fair share of taxes. Oh and dannyboy, since you mentioned you live near 96th St, please reserve your comments for issues that you have to deal with on a regular basis. And frankly, as a woman, we are subjected to disgusting comments that I have witnessed and experienced myself.

    29. susan says:

      i support removing there booksellers it is an eyesore! Also they play loud music

      • dannyboy says:

        In summary, due to eyesores or loud music, most of Broadway needs to relocate.

        (I do miss the loud music blasting from Charivari…”da, da, da, da ,dum”” But times change. A lot. If you don’t like the look of someone, kick ’em out. If you don’t like their sounds…well, you know.

    30. Gilbert says:

      ” it was the latest in a series of tactics intended to permanently remove the book vendors”

      what kind of spin is this? “tactics” to “remove”? how about the latest attempts to ENFORCE THE LAW.

    31. Phoebe says:

      I don’t know why I barely notice them when I go to that ATM or Bolton’s, etc. and I mourn that old NYC bookstore culture is gone and knowing they are there them is a kind of relief from the gadget-obsessed zombies who DO annoy and offend me w/their absence of social skills. I hear said that NY is safer now, yet I recall spending time in parks after dark and wouldn’t do that now, since the police are all over B’way.

    32. Sean says:

      I want all of you to open your windows and yell out “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”