PDA

View Full Version : Vending Rules Put Sidewalks in a Muddle



Kris
December 2nd, 2003, 05:41 AM
October 11, 2003

ABOUT NEW YORK

Vending Rules Put Sidewalks in a Muddle

By DAN BARRY

RETIRED Marine Sgt. William O'Conner, a veteran of combat in Korea and Vietnam, sits most every day in his motorized cart in Times Square, selling handbags in summer and heavy-duty gloves in winter. He also has a stash of umbrellas stored in the milk crate that fits snugly between his weakened legs, just in case it rains.

Some might mutter that Mr. O'Conner is creating congestion on the sidewalk; that he is siphoning business from merchants; that despite the rumpled appearance and the gaps between his teeth, he is probably richer than Croesus. Some might ask: Why's he there anyway?

If only life were simple enough to affirm our mutterings. Mr. O'Conner has diabetes, a condition that ended his 35-year military career. He sometimes commutes from Queens on his Pride Celebrity cart, a blue model with turn signals, a head lamp and all-rubber wheels that he paid for by shouting "Handbag!" and "Umbrellas!" His salesroom is an urban whirl of sly winks and wide eyes, a place where the rules bend and harden depending on the knowledge and mood of the officers on the beat.

As for why Mr. O'Conner is there at all, the answer dates to the post-Civil War years, when New York State compensated veterans for their physical and psychological wounds by allowing them to peddle on city streets. That modest expression of gratitude continues today, as manifested by the man in the Pride Celebrity, hawking handbags into the Times Square roar.

But over the last generation, the city has decided that, with all due respect to veterans, it can no longer provide such broad expressions of gratitude. Buildings have risen, sidewalks have narrowed, merchants have complained. Vendors of every type have taken to the streets, with and without licenses, selling legal and illegal goods, all expressing the belief that the streets belong to the people.

With New York sidewalks turning into congested bazaars, city and state government responded with laws and guidelines so complex that people have a better chance at three-card monte than they do of comprehending them. Somehow, Mr. O'Conner and his comrades say, disabled veterans became symbols of inconvenience rather than of sacrifice.

The city also lost count of its vendors; illegal vendors don't apply for licenses, and so-called First Amendment vendors — those selling artwork, photographs and free-expression kitsch — don't need them. The best guess is about 10,000, including 1,200 veterans and 300 disabled veterans.

The State Legislature then nudged the matter into a complete farce by allowing the vending law to lapse in March. It meant that disabled veterans, under the post-Civil War law, could set up shop along major avenues from which they had once been banned. And wherever any vending is allowed, those First Amendment vendors are also allowed. As a result, Seventh Avenue in Times Square is a study in strange street etiquette. If Mr. O'Conner sets up, then four or five First Amendment vendors set up; if he takes a day off, then they are forced to take a day off. If he arrives later than usual, say 9 a.m., then they sit beside barren tables, their wares in boxes, until he wheels into view. "I could be here without them, but they can't be here without me," he said. "I pay them no mind."

THE other day, the First Amendment vendors essentially attached to Mr. O'Conner were three friends from Tbilisi in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, each with his own stand. One of them, Alex Leikin, acknowledged that he did not know the name of the man in the motorized cart. All he knew, he said, is, "if he's not here, we can't work here."

State legislators say they expect that a new and better law will be in effect by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, city officials are trying to develop a comprehensive plan — although it remains to be seen whether the state and city efforts will find the synchronicity that translates into common sense on the streets.

This week a City Council hearing on the matter captured the elusiveness of that goal. Police officials testified about their enforcement of the inconsistent laws, vendors in the audience called them liars, and the hearing's chairman begged everyone to please offer solutions. The problems, he said, are stipulated.

While people down in City Hall debated his livelihood, Mr. O'Conner was working Times Square. His job may lack amenities; it may be one in which his umbrella stash compels him to pray for rain. But it is what he does now. It is what so many disabled veterans did before him on the streets of New York, because that is how the government sometimes says thanks.


December 2, 2003

At Crossroads of World, Gridlock on the Sidewalks

By THOMAS J. LUECK

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/12/02/nyregion/02square.jpg
With First Amendment help, vendors sell art along Times Square's sidewalks.

It was a balmy November midnight as Antonio Goring surveyed what has become of Times Square: the huge video screens, the chockablock rows of sidewalk vendors, and the horde of pedestrians that spills from jammed sidewalks into crowded streets.

"This is what makes New York New York," said Mr. Goring, 25, who was on the town late with four friends and clearly having a good time. "The crowds, the vendors, the roasted nuts; even the fake watches just add to the fun."

But that enthusiasm is not shared by a politically potent group of property owners, merchants and elected officials in Manhattan and Albany. They say Times Square's sidewalks have become so crowded that they threaten public safety. Not to mention tax revenue, tourism, retail sales, garbage collection, office productivity and even efforts to ward off terrorism.

"I wish we could expand the island of Manhattan, but we can't," said Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner. "We built our sidewalks for a certain level of service, and whenever you force people into the gutter you put them at risk."

For now, the main focus of complaints is a land rush of sidewalk vendors who have descended on Times Square's main avenues since March. Although vendors have always hawked their wares in the neighborhood — selling everything from $5 portraits drawn on the spot to counterfeit handbags — they have been allowed to jam previously off-limit sidewalks because a law was allowed to lapse in March.

"I think we could do without the vendors," said Massimo Kusmann, a project manager for Reuters America Inc., as he stood yesterday on the sidewalk at Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets. "Maybe the tourists like them, but the rest of us have a problem."

Gov. George E. Pataki has already met with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno hoping to forge preliminary agreement on new vendor regulations that could be adopted in a special legislative session later this month. No agreement was reached, but Mr. Silver and other legislators from the city are pushing for quick action.

"The sidewalk problem is going to magnify tenfold as we approach Christmas," said Assemblyman Steven Sanders, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the street vendor regulations enacted in 1990 that were allowed to lapse. "We obviously have to move."

Meanwhile, since the holiday shopping season began on Friday, the police have stepped into the breach, using the authority they have always had to clear sidewalk vendors during parades, performances and other events that lead to congestion. Deputy Chief Michael Collins, a police spokesman, said yesterday that precinct commanders would decide when and where to clear vendors each day until after Jan. 1.

Street vending is hardly confined to Times Square. Vendors provoked angry protests after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, when they set up shop en masse around ground zero, and their numbers are growing in Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, the ferryboat waiting area in Battery Park and elsewhere.

But Times Square has become the battleground, largely because its busiest sidewalks — those along Broadway and Seventh Avenue — were jammed even before the vendors arrived.

The crowds reflect what many consider a marvel of economic development — new office towers, reduced crime and new businesses drawing thousands of pedestrians at all hours.

The sidewalks of Times Square are also impeded by stationary groups of smokers outside their office buildings, massive concrete planters on the sidewalks designed to block suicide bombers and screeching crowds of teenagers who gather below a second-story window of the MTV studios.

"I think having 10,000 teeny-boppers is great, but when you also have 500 vendors taking up 30 percent of the sidewalk, something has to give," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Business Improvement District, a property owners' group.

The group hires consultants periodically to measure pedestrian traffic, and has found huge increases since the mid-1990's. The business improvement district also counted people spilling off the sidewalks into the street. In a worse case, it found 6,959 people walking in the street from 8:30 a.m. to midnight on Oct. 25 in front of the Virgin Music Megastore on Seventh Avenue between 45th Street and 46th Street.

Some of those exiled into the street are using an experimental system of sidewalk extensions — painted white lines, some set off by temporary posts attached to the pavement — put in place by the city in 2001. Ms. Weinshall says the experiment with temporary sidewalk extensions has been successful enough to make them permanent in the 2005 fiscal year, when the city will spend about $10 million to expand the pavement, move signs and make the temporary measures permanent.

But Mr. Tompkins warns that such precautions may not prevent injuries. "We are playing with fire," he said.

Ms. Weinshall says the city is looking for other strips of Times Square pavement that could be claimed for pedestrian use. But she said that other measures were needed, including restrictions on sidewalk vending.

Cristyne L. Nicholas, president of NYC & Company, the city's tourism office, said the sidewalk vendors were scaring away visitors, cutting into store sales and tax receipts, and making it harder to ward off terrorism.

"The vendors have become a deterrent," she said, adding that a new law to limit vending "is something we needed yesterday."

The restrictions that lapsed in March were an outgrowth of rules going back to the years after the Civil War, when the state entitled disabled veterans to use almost any sidewalk to sell their wares.

The veterans and other vendors were banned from using the most congested sidewalks in 1990, after legislators responded to complaints from building owners and retailers about lost business. In Times Square, that meant they could use sidewalks on the side streets but not the avenues.

That all changed in March when members of the Assembly refused to accept a Senate version that would have extended the old vendor law without incorporating changes that had been sought by the veterans, business groups and the city. So the law expired.

Suddenly, the veterans were allowed to set up shop in the middle of the heaviest sidewalk traffic. And once the veterans had moved, they were followed by a larger group of vendors who are able to claim a First Amendment right to sell any merchandise that is artistic or composed of printed matter, even if it involves no more creativity than mass-producing photographs of celebrities or tall buildings.

These vendors have always been allowed to operate on the same blocks as the veterans, since lawyers for the city say it cannot deny a First Amendment right when state law has already established the same right on the basis of someone's military history. And while the number of veteran vendors is limited by the number of city licenses they are issued, there are no limits on those claiming a First Amendment right to hawk their wares.

The Times Square improvement district has surveyed vendors three times since the law lapsed. It found 208 vendors on the Times Square sidewalks on Oct. 15, 66 more than were there on April 23.

Most of vending had become concentrated on the busiest blocks of Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street, with some of the First Amendment vendors setting up tables very close to crosswalks and curb cuts for the disabled, and frustrating pedestrians.

Now, with the pressure mounting for new limits, some of the vendors say that they have established sidewalk businesses that are a benefit to visitors and that it would be unfair to make them move.

"I'd go out of business," said Daniel Galarza of Queens, who operates an instant photo business on the sidewalk at the northeast corner of 45th Street and Seventh Avenue. He will take a picture of visitors for $15 (or two photos for $20) with Times Square as a backdrop, something he cannot do on a side street.

"It is too crowded, but the problem is a few vendors are ruining it for everybody," he said, pointing to a group of vendors whose merchandise was stacked high and wide on the sidewalk.

Assemblyman Sanders said no decision had been made about the precise language of vendor legislation in Albany, but the new law would most likely force a majority of vendors back to the side streets around Times Square and impose new restrictions around ground zero.

The new rules may also increase the number of permits that are granted to disabled veterans, he said, and authorize the city to enact greater controls over the vendors claiming a First Amendment right.

Some of the disabled veteran vendors who initially welcomed the chance to ply the busiest sidewalks say even they are now being squeezed out.

"We want to get rid of the people who are infringing on the veterans," said Richard Pedro, the New York State adjutant of the American Legion. "It has gotten out of hand."

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/12/01/nyregion/02SQUARE.chart.jpg

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Ninjahedge
December 3rd, 2003, 05:56 PM
It is getting very irritating.

The one thing I DETEST in the city beyond the usual amenities such as garbage and overcrowding, is the proliferation of cheese (legal and illegal) all over the street.

It is hard enough to get around the city without these guys. Yes it is the atmosphere of Times Square, but just like a restroom in a mexican restaurant, not everyone enjoys it.

Kris
December 4th, 2003, 08:33 AM
December 4, 2003

Times Square Jam (2 Letters)

To the Editor:

Re "Times Sq. Gridlock . . . on Sidewalk" (news article, Dec. 2):

Why don't we make America's town square something for only pedestrians and bicyclists and ban car traffic in the center? That would be a boon to retailers and a gift to all New Yorkers.

STEVE WINKELMAN
New York, Dec. 2, 2003
The writer is manager of transportation policy at the Center for Clean Air Policy.



To the Editor:

Allowing vendors on the sidewalks of New York is integral to the employment of recent immigrants and rehabilitated criminals ("Times Sq. Gridlock . . . on Sidewalk," news article, Dec. 2). These men and women should be applauded for their entrepreneurship and not forced away from their livelihoods.

The Times Square Business Improvement District would better serve the city by working to incorporate rather than remove these hard-working city residents.

CATHERINE MCNEUR
Woodside, Queens, Dec. 2, 2003


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 4th, 2003, 08:34 AM
December 4, 2003

FIXING ALBANY

How Hard Is It to Control the Vendors?

The clogged sidewalks of Manhattan this season offer an excellent example of how things don't get done in Albany. Herald Square is chockablock with peddlers. Canal Street is practically impassable on weekends, as is Fifth Avenue and most of Midtown. All over Manhattan, vendors selling T-shirts and pink Yankees hats crowd one another out of the busiest spots. Pedestrians have to detour into the traffic, never a path for long-term survival in New York City.

It did not have to be this way. Last April, Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned New York's legislative leaders that the city's vendor bill was about to expire and should be quickly reshaped into a new law.

The old law had rules for who could put a table out where. Protections for the best and safest spots traditionally went to disabled veterans or those selling old magazines, paintings or other items protected by the First Amendment. Vendors were banned from most busy main thoroughfares.

When the bill expired, the number of vendors in Times Square quadrupled. The self-appointed salespeople spread over the sidewalks at Rockefeller Center and encroached on those trying to understand the tragedy at ground zero. New York's police officers sometimes intervene when peddlers block the intersections or force people out into the streets. But the real intervention needs to be done at the state level.

The city's vendor bill was another one of those bits that are lost in Albany because three leaders have to agree on every single detail, with no conference committees to help iron things out. In this case, the State Senate leader, Joseph Bruno, had his house pass a two-year bill, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver balked at some of the details. Since the Legislature is not in Albany now and Mr. Bruno refuses to bring his members back, the most sensible compromise would be for the Assembly to return and approve the Senate plan with amendments proposed for next year's session. But Mr. Silver claims that he wants a longer, more comprehensive version.

Thanks to the Legislature, hordes of holiday shoppers and tourists are spending tons of cash on vendors who probably do not pay state taxes. It's gridlock as usual — both on the city sidewalks and in Albany.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 5th, 2003, 02:36 AM
December 5, 2003

Albany Fails to Pass a Bill to Regulate New York City's Vendors

By AL BAKER

ALBANY, Dec. 4 — Hopes of resurrecting a law this year to control vendors in Times Square and other congested areas of New York City ended Thursday after lawmakers could not overcome months of disagreements over several issues, including whether vendors should be fingerprinted in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, announced at a news conference in the State Capitol that his members would not be coming back to Albany this year to vote on the measure because they had already passed the vendor's bill the city had requested.

The Assembly and others had rejected provisions of that bill, including the fingerprinting clause, and refused to pass it before the Legislature went home, offering no new alternative.

Though the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said on Thursday that a host of new issues had been addressed and resolved, Mr. Bruno disagreed and said he would not call his chamber back to the Capitol to revisit the issue anyway.

Failure to pass the bill has resulted in a clog of vendors on the sidewalks in some of Manhattan's busiest areas and has become a highly visible example of the legislative gridlock for which Albany is known.

As a practical matter, Mr. Bruno's announcement meant that any solution would have to wait until after the holiday season, the time when Manhattan's streets are most crowded. It also meant that the New York City Police Department would have to continue its practice of clearing the sidewalks by enforcing laws against activities that create dangerous conditions for the public or that impede the flow of pedestrians and traffic.

That is exactly what it has been doing in the last week or so, in Times Square and other Midtown areas, as holiday shoppers and visitors have jammed the sidewalks.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg conceded Thursday that the issue appeared dead, at least for this year.

"It does not look to me at this late date like we will be able to get Albany to come together and pass a new vendor law," Mr. Bloomberg said at an appearance at Silvercup Studios in Queens.

"The Senate did pass a bill, the Assembly has worked on a bill, but we're running out of time and I think what we're going to have to do for the Christmas season is have our Police Department use whatever laws are on the books — use them appropriately but use them where the vendors are forcing people into the streets."

Officials said that the fingerprinting issue was just one of several that had stopped the measure dead in its tracks when the Assembly finally took it up at the end of the session in June. City Hall had asked that Albany pass an extension of the law, which expired in March, to include a provision to fingerprint anyone arrested for illegally selling goods on the city's streets.

The proposal was meant as a security measure and to deter illegal vending and to track repeat offenders.

On June 19, the Senate voted, 60 to 1, to pass a bill that was, in essence, a straight extension of the old law except that it added the fingerprint check for military veterans seeking licenses to peddle. It also banned peddling in certain areas around ground zero, another provision the city had requested.

But in the Assembly, several members, including members of the chamber's black and Puerto Rican caucus, balked at their house's version of a similar bill, seeing fingerprinting as an infringement of the civil liberties of the vendors, many of whom are from minority groups or immigrants. The Assembly bill never made it to the floor.

"Unnecessary fingerprinting of folks, especially just regular people who have had no prior criminal histories, is unnecessary and is also punitive," said Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright, a Democratic Assemblyman from Harlem. "I think including fingerprinting was one of the main reasons our bill was not passed at the time."

Since June, several other contentious and complicated questions were being negotiated, including at what distance from the curb vendors should be allowed to set up, how to classify certain vendors and who should be allowed to collect the proceeds on the street.

"We were working in both houses on another bill up until last night," one city administration official familiar with the talks said Thursday. "It was a negotiation and it didn't close. It's like anything else, people don't agree."

However, Mr. Silver said Thursday evening that an understanding on a new bill had already been reached. The new version did not include a fingerprinting provision, he said.

"The real point is that today, I believe, all the players, the Senate and the Assembly, and all of the stakeholders, the merchants associations and the veterans groups, have an understanding as to what bill is the final draft ready to go," Mr. Silver said.

"And I'm hopeful that that understanding will stay in place until the Legislature next meets to enact a permanent veterans law."

Mr. Bruno, earlier, had disagreed. "We don't have real agreement on details and specifics," he said. "But generally, I would say that we could reconcile our differences and get something done, but we don't have as we speak, a bill that we have, four-ways, signed off on."

Unlike Congress, the state lawmakers do not generally meet in conference committees to hash out differences. Proposals that pass one house often die on the vine in the other.

Business organizations in Manhattan had been putting pressure on Mr. Silver and other lawmakers to resolve the issue quickly, because they believe the disabled veterans and the hordes of so-called first amendment peddlers that follow them drive off customers.

Mayor Bloomberg said he hoped that the Assembly and the Senate would resolve the matter in January, when they come back into session, so that Gov. George E. Pataki could sign it into law. Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for the mayor, said, "We need this legislation now, and not having it puts a tremendous strain on the Police Department."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

BrooklynRider
December 5th, 2003, 01:26 PM
Times Square is bad. After that, Herald Square - 6th Ave south of 42nd Street. I think the vendors kind of detract from the whole area. Why not force them onto the trianguar medians?

AJphx
December 8th, 2003, 01:49 AM
They will either need to start creating some car-free zones, or create new transit spaces such as underground walkways or skyways (and perhaps not just skyways from building to building, but upper level walkways around buildings like in sci-fi)

billyblancoNYC
December 8th, 2003, 10:43 AM
Doubt it, NYC is all about street life. Would be interesting to see a no-car area, though.

Kris
January 3rd, 2004, 10:13 PM
January 4, 2004

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Let New York's Veterans Vend

By MITCHELL DUNEIER

Some time this month, leaders in Albany are expected to decide whether to once again limit where vendors can sell their wares in New York City. The vendors — many of them disabled veterans who sell leather belts, perfume and other goods — have been largely blamed for the overcrowding of Manhattan's sidewalks, especially during the recent holidays. Albany had allowed a previous vending law to expire in March and then failed to vote on a new one in time for the Christmastime crush.

Before they consider the issue once again, though, lawmakers should try to come up with a more thoughtful solution. While there are undoubtedly more vendors, particularly in Midtown, they are hardly to blame for New York's congested sidewalks. Nor is limiting their numbers year-round the humane response in a city with a rich history of helping those who have served their country well.

The issue goes back to 1894, when the State Legislature granted physically disabled veterans from the Civil War exemptions from municipal laws limiting hawking or peddling. The gesture has had a powerful impact ever since, benefiting soldiers who fought in the two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. For most disabled veterans, there are better alternatives to working outside. But there have always been some whose wounds make it impossible for them to adjust to the formal economy. Through sidewalk selling, they have found a way to make a living.

Then in 1991, as soldiers returned from the Persian Gulf, Tom Cusick, the president of the Fifth Avenue Association, struck deals with city and state officials that in effect restricted the veterans' numbers in Midtown by making the most congested sidewalks, particularly those on major avenues, off limits. In exchange, the association contributed $400,000 to veterans' groups and agreed to offer jobs to every veteran holding a peddler's license at that time.

When the measure expired some nine months ago, more disabled veterans (nobody knows how many, but my own rough canvass shows 70 or so) began selling goods in Midtown. Along with them came sellers of books and artworks who, the courts and city law say, can set up on blocks where the veterans do. But even with them, the impact of vendors on the city's sidewalks was minimal, especially on major thoroughfares like Fifth Avenue.

A closer look indicates that the problems lie elsewhere. Consider the heavily traveled Herald Square area. Take a walk down the west side of Broadway between 33rd and 34th Streets, where there isn't a single vendor on the sidewalk (a parking lane there has been set aside for them). Nevertheless, this is one of the city's most congested blocks. Why? Start counting the large potted plants. There are 27 planters on the sidewalk there. Since the early 1990's, they have become the dominant strategy used by Business Improvement Districts to reduce the number of legal sidewalk spaces for vendors. Think of it this way: it's easier to install a planter than to fight a First Amendment battle against vendors and artists.

The strategy worked. But unlike some other policies by the Business Improvement Districts that have greatly enhanced city life, this one hasn't. It has made walking down the street difficult, especially since planters are just one of the many kinds of "street furniture" that increasingly dot blocks. News boxes and broken phone booths also eat up chunks of pedestrian space. Then there is scaffolding, which has proliferated over the past few years. It is supposed to stay up only for facade repair and construction, but often remains in place long after work is completed. Building owners can make money from the advertising posted to the scaffolding or cut costs by leaving it in place between different phases of projects.

Amid all this, vendors have been trying to wedge themselves into the remaining nooks and crannies, giving the false impression that they are the problem. Then the holidays arrived and with them came the throngs of tourists and shoppers. In the absence of any meaningful examination of sidewalk life, the vendors became the easy target among city officials and business owners who were concerned about overcrowding.

Let's hope the extra time the State Legislature is spending on the new law will allow everyone to think more clearly about the matter. As it stands now, though, things don't look promising. The proposal in Albany apparently seeks to keep the vendors off major avenues, approximately from 30th to 64th Streets, throughout the year. And this time around, there have been no high-profile reports indicating that the business community is offering either jobs or aid to disabled veterans in exchange for limiting their livelihood.

Lawmakers need to go back to the drawing board and come up with an overarching sidewalk policy based on a systematic study of current needs and uses. Much of the overcrowding can be solved simply by addressing the block-by-block narrowing of sidewalk space by street furniture. The city could also designate some parking lanes for vending, as it did between 33rd and 34th Streets. These moves alone can make walking down congested sidewalks less like an Olympic event.

One has to wonder whether state legislation is even necessary. By using those measures and by closing certain streets to peddlers during peak times of the holiday season, the city could effectively deal with the situation. In fact, most vendors want stable spots where they can work year-round. If congested areas like Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and the narrow crosstown streets around Grand Central Terminal were off limits around Christmas, the ban would discourage vendors from setting up shop there other times of the year.

No one is arguing to protect the scores of unlicensed vendors who sell counterfeit goods. But cracking down on them should not come at the cost of stripping away the longstanding right of disabled veterans to make a living. It's hard to imagine that state lawmakers would want to find themselves doing just that, especially at a time when our country is at war. With the number of seriously wounded in Iraq far higher than that in the first gulf war, is the most humane and prudent thing to limit their options before they even return home? Neither Albany nor City Hall can afford to underestimate this moment — not just for the sake of disabled veterans but also for other vendors and artists who are carving out a living on the sidewalks of New York.

Americans often measure patriotism by how vocal our support is for our troops when they are fighting abroad. Perhaps the better test is what we do once they return home to face a future they never anticipated. This isn't the time to abandon them.

Mitchell Duneier, a sociology professor at Princeton and the City University of New York Graduate Center, is author of "Sidewalk."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
February 26th, 2004, 11:29 PM
February 27, 2004

Albany Ready to Reinstate Vendor Laws

By MARC SANTORA

ALBANY, Feb. 26 - Nearly a year after street vendors began clogging New York City streets after a law controlling them lapsed, state lawmakers said yesterday that they had reached agreement to reinstate the law.

Under the proposed legislation, the basic outlines of the law that expired last spring would remain intact, with new restrictions that would make the area around ground zero off limits to vendors and prohibit any peddling within five feet of a street corner, officials said.

"I am pleased that the State Assembly and Senate have agreed on legislation to renew the regulation of vendors on our streets," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement. "Without this law, many streets have been clogged with vendors, making it hazardous for pedestrians and hurting our quality of life."

The failure to pass legislation regulating vendors had been seen as another example of the gridlock in Albany. The legislation had wide support, but had fallen victim to partisan squabbling over details.

Technically, the law that lawmakers agreed upon yesterday affects veterans, particularly disabled war veterans. Dating back to 1894, the law was put in place to help veterans of the Civil War by exempting them from the municipal laws limiting peddling and hawking.

Over the years, however, the courts have decided that other vendors are allowed to work on blocks where veterans sell their wares, depending on the products they sell. While there were only 60 disabled veterans with licenses under the old law and roughly 850 more vendors who had general merchandise licenses from the city, there are an estimated 10,000 vendors citywide.

One of the biggest hurdles to passing new legislation had to do with whether fingerprinting of vendors should be required.

The Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, had initially wanted such a procedure, but in the end agreed to drop it to reach a deal. "It is a year since we have had legislation," he said. "We think it is time for us to move."

Mr. Bruno said the legislation would be introduced on Monday, when the Legislature is back in session, and is expected to pass both the Assembly and the Senate.

Through an aide, Gov. George E. Pataki signaled that he was ready to sign the legislation if the mayor and the Legislature had reached an agreement.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the reason the deal took so long is that people were trying to strike a "fair balance between the rights of the peddlers and the rights of business owners on the streets."

He said initially people "reach for the stars," but "as time goes by, people begin to compromise."

In addition to pressure from business leaders, politicians were also hearing from citizens having to deal with the cluttered sidewalks and veterans who wanted their special status back.

Assemblyman Steven Sanders, who represents the East Side of Manhattan and who sponsored both the 1991 legislation and the new proposal, said it was vital to resolve the issue.

"There really is nothing more important than providing some order on the city's streets," he said. "Regrettably, it took longer than it should have."

In addition to restricting activity around ground zero, another block would be added to the list of restricted areas that existed under the old law - 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The new law would also increase the number of licenses given to veterans to 105.

Mr. Sanders said the restriction on the distance a vendor could stand from a street corner was a critical change. "It ensures that people are able to cross the streets without dancing around all kinds of obstructions," he said.

In addition, this law would not expire as the 1991 law did, so there is little likelihood that the city will find itself without a vending law again, Mr. Sanders said.Some critics have said that the vending law was a relic of a very different city and that there are better ways of helping veterans. Mr. Sanders said, however, that some people still choose to make a living peddling and that it was not for the state to tell them how to live.

"New York City is different than it was in the 1890's," he said. "It is even different than it was in 1991."

The new law takes into account the realities of the post-Sept. 11 landscape, Mr. Sanders said, by banning vending around ground zero, and still manages to respect the rights of veterans, who are as present on people's minds now as they have been during any war past.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
February 28th, 2004, 12:27 PM
February 28, 2004

For Some Vendors, Fears Over New Street Restrictions

By IAN URBINA

For Ronald Johnson, flush times are about to end. Next week, when the State Legislature is expected to pass a law limiting the access of street vendors to certain areas in Midtown and Lower Manhattan, Mr. Johnson says he will head to Brooklyn, where his $3 "I Love New York" T-shirts will surely be less popular than they are now with the tourists at his table outside MTV headquarters in Times Square.

After partisan squabbling initially delayed the new law, state and city officials reached an agreement on Thursday on a bill to keep vendors off certain streets in Manhattan. Legislators expect it to pass sometime next week, helping to thin a throng of peddlers who have poured into Manhattan streets since old restrictions lapsed nearly a year ago.

Mr. Johnson, 49, who has sold the T-shirts for five years, said that when the old law expired, he moved from a corner in Lower Manhattan where he made $80 a day to the lucrative bustle of Times Square, where he now averages about $400 a day.

"I probably won't even be able to sell my favorite item anymore," he said, explaining that he may switch to leather belts, crystal souvenirs and vinyl handbags, like other vendors. "That about sums up my feelings right now: no more 'I Love New York' T-shirts."

The legislation specifically affects an estimated 374 disabled veterans who possess special permits to sell on city streets, but would make few changes to the original set of rules. It still allows for 60 blue permits to go to disabled war veterans, permitting them to sell their wares on most of the side streets along the bustling Seventh Avenue corridor between 33rd and 66th Streets. Over the next three years, the law would allow an additional 45 disabled veterans to receive blue permits. The law also provides for an unlimited number of yellow permits, which allow vending on the remaining city streets.

But unlike the old law, the new one would bar vendors from the area around ground zero and forbid any peddling within five feet of a street corner.

Duane M. Jackson, who sells leather purses and belts at 46th Street and Broadway, is one of the lucky few with a blue permit. "I'm not worried for myself," he said. "But I still think the law is wrong," he said, explaining that it pits one disabled vet against another. "Why shouldn't we all be able to stay?"

Mr. Jackson, 52, said he and other vendors would try to block the law from taking effect by filing an injunction in federal court on Monday, citing discrimination against the disabled.

Mr. Johnson, the T-shirt seller, has only a yellow permit. A Vietnam veteran who was partly paralyzed in the neck when his Jeep overturned, said the last several years have been hard. In 2001, after finding a profitable spot downtown at 120 Broadway, in front of Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer's office, Mr. Johnson said he had to move after the Sept. 11 terror attack. He went to 60 Court Street, where another vendor with more seniority displaced him. Then the old vending law lapsed, and it was open season in Times Square.

"I literally ran over here with my cart," he said. "But now look at me. Banished once again."

Standing by his table of small wooden figures and hand-painted calligraphy, John Xiang, 26, said the law was not a big concern. Mr. Xiang is among the so-called First Amendment vendors who sell photographs, artwork and free-expression kitsch. These peddlers do not need licenses and can set up shop as long as there is at least one vendor on the block with a blue permit.

During his weekly radio show yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he was glad to see an agreement reached so the city could begin getting sidewalk crowding under control. "We didn't get everything we wanted - we would have liked some more enforcement tools in the law," he said, adding that he still thought the new legislation was an improvement on the old.

Gretchen Dykstra, the commissioner of the city Department of Consumer Affairs, said there were 2,531 general vendors licensed on the city streets, 374 of whom are disabled veterans. She said she did not know how many First Amendment vendors there are, because they are unlicensed.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
March 6th, 2004, 09:28 PM
March 7, 2004

Enforcement of Law Sends Many Street Vendors Packing

By ALAN FEUER

In the battle over vending permits in New York, a simple rule applies: everybody hates everybody else.

The yellow permits hate the blues. The blue permits hate the generals. The general permits hate the blues and the yellows. And everybody hates the First Amendments.

If it sounds confusing, it is. Yesterday, a new state law took effect that barred many vendors from certain areas of Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Although it was intended to bring some order to the crowded city streets, it also brought disorder. Vendors who were forced to leave were at the throats of vendors who were not.

The law, which was signed on Friday by Gov. George E. Pataki, essentially reinstated a 110-year-old statute, which had lapsed last year, that granted vending rights to disabled veterans. Its new restrictions include barring vendors from the area around ground zero and barring vendors without blue permits from certain streets around Times Square. And that's why it set up an internecine squabble.

Consider the case of three vendors who were vying for the same small corner of 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue yesterday morning.

Walter Wells had a blue permit, given to disabled veterans who had applied by 1992. Under the new law, he could stay.

Frank the Vendor, as he asked to be called, had a yellow permit, given to disabled veterans who applied after 1992. Under the new law, he could not.

Then there was Goumballe Mbaye, who had a general vending permit. These are given to nonveterans and are decided by a lottery. Under the new law, he would also have to leave.

"Now that the yellows have been kicked out of Midtown," Frank explained, "the blues are in their glory. They're just so happy all us yellows have to leave."

Frank sells "I Love New York" T-shirts for a living and was packing up his table only moments after setting up. The police had just arrived and kicked him out.

He served in the Navy from 1976 to 1979. That's when the diabetes got him. In September, he received his yellow license, and ever since he's made decent money - $400 on a good day, he said. But now he has to leave Times Square and find another spot. Times Square is where the tourists are, he pointed out.

"I had hopes and dreams, you know?" Frank said. "Things were going good for me. Now, I got no hopes or dreams. The blues, man. The blues. I wish I was a blue."

Mr. Wells is a blue. He served in Vietnam. He was a door gunner with the Army's 101st Airborne Division until a piece of C-4 explosive blew up in his face.

Now he sells pocketbooks and watches. When he greeted Frank, there was pity in his eye.

"No yellows here at all?" he asked.

Frank said, "Nope," and frowned.

Well, why not set up shop on Fulton Street in Brooklyn? Mr. Wells suggested.

Frank began to laugh. "Fulton Street?" he said. "There's no tourists there."

Mr. Wells could only shrug. He saw Frank's point. To him, the real problem was the First Amendments, not the yellows. First Amendment vendors, who sell photographs and art, do not need permits. They can set up shop within a block of any blue.

"What made it so bad for all us blues and yellows," Mr. Wells explained, "is all those First Amendment guys. They're the ones who caused the real congestion on the streets."

Frank agreed. "The First Amendment guys got more rights than I do,'' he said. "And I defended this country. There's guys with yellow permits who lost their arms and legs in Vietnam."

It was around then that Mr. Mbaye sauntered up. An immigrant from Senegal, he received a general permit back in 1992. Much like Frank, Mr. Mbaye was testing the waters. He wanted to see if the police would really kick him out.

"This is business discrimination," Mr. Mbaye said. "I waited 18 years to get a permit. Now I have to leave Times Square?"

Frank and Mr. Wells had little sympathy. The way they saw it, veterans came first.

"But what's the difference between you and me?" Mr. Mbaye asked.

The difference, both men said, was that they had fought for their country. "Foxholes and bullets - that's the difference," Mr. Wells explained.

Frank and Mr. Mbaye left. Mr. Wells began to set up shop.

By 2 p.m., he had a crowd of people clamoring for handbags. There was a line of First Amendment vendors next to him. They, too, had a crowd.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Freedom Tower
March 7th, 2004, 05:28 PM
It's ridiculous that veterans have the least rights as vendors. If anything they should be given more access to the streets than the average vendor. It's a big "f*** you" to people who fought for the country, and risked their lives doing it. :(

TLOZ Link5
March 7th, 2004, 06:13 PM
It's ridiculous that veterans have the least rights as vendors. If anything they should be given more access to the streets than the average vendor. It's a big "f*** you" to people who fought for the country, and risked their lives doing it. :(

I agree.

Kris
March 22nd, 2004, 06:47 AM
Pushcart Wars (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20040320/200/923)

krulltime
June 18th, 2004, 11:58 AM
TRUMP TO MAYOR: BOOT FIFTH AVE. PEDDLERS


By WILLIAM J. GORTA
June 18, 2004

Donald Trump blasted conditions on Fifth Avenue as "deplorable" in a letter to Mayor Bloomberg complaining about street vendors who are "rapidly destroying" the street's ambience.

The letter, addressed "Dear Michael," accuses vendors of pretending to be military veterans so they can peddle their wares on the high-rent street.

Special regulations give veterans more leeway than other vendors.

Trump said he inquired of one vendor — who displayed hats and shirts bearing Trump's trademark phrase "You're fired" — which war he had fought in, but the vendor smiled and said, "Mr. Trump, I am too smart to fight in a war."

But Trump favors no special peddling privileges for veterans, either.

"Whether they are veterans or not, they [the vendors] should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street," The Donald wrote.

Trump also took a swipe at the local Business Improvement District, which administers extra services paid for by a levy against building owners.

"I am perhaps most disappointed by the job being done by the Fifth Avenue Association to have allowed this situation to reoccur," he wrote. "It is now as bad as it was 10 years ago."

The Fifth Avenue Association did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Trump said building owners and tenants are "forced to clean up all the discarded debris" when the vendors leave — and the stores are "complaining bitterly."

"Frankly, I have no idea how they can be doing business with the mess they have outside their front door," he wrote.

"Fifth Avenue's comeback is going to be a short one if this situation is not corrected immediately."

Trump implored the mayor to act quickly or the city's reputation will falter.

"The image of New York City will suffer," Trump wrote. "I hope you can stop this very deplorable situation before it is too late."

A Bloomberg spokeswoman last night declined to comment on the letter.

A call to Trump's office was not returned.


Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

krulltime
June 18th, 2004, 09:03 PM
Trump: Fifth Avenue a Dumpster


http://www.nypost.com/photos/news0618200402a.jpg

DONALD TRUMP
Shows road rage.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

http://www.therealdeal.net/breaking_news/June/images/1087576690.jpg

Donald Trump is complaining about conditions on Fifth Avenue, saying street vendors are destroying the ambience of the area, and that building owners and tenants are forced to clean up their discarded debris.

Maybe that explains the dumpster diving in his most recent Visa ad.

Copyright 2003-2004 The Real Deal.

krulltime
June 19th, 2004, 02:50 AM
PEDDLERS POKE BACK AT THE DONALD


By LESLIE T. SNADOWSKY
June 19, 2004

Military veterans who peddle their wares along Fifth Avenue came out swinging at Donald Trump yesterday for his letter to Mayor Bloomberg saying the vendors were destroying the ambience of the prestigious shopping area.

"We pay taxes like every other business," said James Kushner, a member of the Disabled Veteran Vendor Advisory Board. "They won't renew our licenses if we don't file tax forms. Hopefully we pay as little as possible. Just like Donald Trump, I'm sure."

Cops said they have issued 3,191 summonses and arrested 1,642 illegal peddlers below 59th Street so far this year.

"We donate a significant number of resources [to peddler enforcement] in Midtown North and Midtown South," an NYPD spokesman said.

And, despite Trump's complaints, the vendors appear to be a big hit with tourists — a point not lost on Mayor Bloomberg.

"I'm sympathetic to Donald," the mayor said yesterday, responding to Trump's letter.

"Peddlers disrupt traffic and a lot of people don't like them, but a lot of people like them and buy things from them . . . we constantly deal with it and there is no right answer."


Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

krulltime
June 19th, 2004, 02:55 AM
:o oh no! I didn't see this one comming. A fight between the really poor and the super rich.

krulltime
June 21st, 2004, 02:14 AM
VENDORS FIRED UP AGAINST TRUMP

By Alisha Berger
June 20, 2004

A small, angry group of street vendors camped out in front of Trump Tower yesterday afternoon to protest Donald Trump's attempt to kick them off Fifth Avenue.

About 10 disabled veterans and street performers protested in front of the fancy Fifth Avenue building, holding signs that read, "Vendors to Trump: You're Fired!" and "Why can't vets vend on streets we die to protect?"

Their protest was in response to a letter Trump wrote to Mayor Bloomberg complaining about street vendors who are "rapidly destroying" the street's ambience.

Trump's letter accuses vendors of pretending to be vets so they can peddle on the high-rent street. It also rails against disabled veteran vendors.

Trump could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

Ninjahedge
June 21st, 2004, 01:30 PM
Bring back the regulations already.

Or pay for people to watch these guys more closely. Make them charge littering fees and the like for the ones that leave "leftovers".

Streetcorner vendors are kind of neet in NYC when you have a few of them, but I can't stand walking through Times Square or other areas with the crowding there is there now...

krulltime
July 30th, 2004, 07:25 PM
Disabled Veterans Fight City Over Vendor License Policy


http://www.ny1.com/Content/images/live/66/130336.jpg (http://real.ny1.com:8080/ramgen/real3/000C3377_040730_180511hi.rm)
CLICK ON PIC FOR VIDEO

JULY 30TH, 2004

Some disabled veterans are fighting for the right to sell their wares in Midtown Manhattan.

The veterans want the Department of Consumer affairs to do away with a practice that divides city vending licenses into two color categories, yellow and blue. While a yellow license grants vendors the right to do business in the city, it is the coveted blue license that allows vendors to operate in Midtown.

Currently, there are only 60 blue licenses issued, and the state plans to add an additional 45 over the next three years.

“We’re disabled vets across the board, and we should all be entitled to sell where any other disabled vet sells, because other than that, it is discrimination,” Ben Simmons of the Disabled Veterans Action Committee said Friday.

Vendors who already hold the blue licenses worry the city could yank their permits if Midtown becomes overcrowded.

“It's the only law that we have, and we're happy to have it because without it we'd all be allocated to areas where we probably couldn't make any money at all,” said blue license vendor Daniel McCarthy.

The DCA issued a statement saying: "We agree that the laws are complicated and unfair and welcome reasonable change, but for the meantime vets have to follow the law like everyone


Copyright © 2004 NY1 News.

pianoman11686
October 8th, 2006, 11:43 PM
No-Name, Brand-Name or Phony: It’s All Here

By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

Published: October 9, 2006

The three men stood in a ragged row on the sidewalk, backs against the shop fronts, baseball caps pulled low. Their eyes twitched toward the street corners, alert for the police, as they murmured promises of sought-after — and quite possibly illicit — merchandise, clutched under jackets or stashed around the corner.

“Timberlands.”

“Jeans-jeans-jeans.”

“Jordan Air Force. Jordan Air Force right here.”

A shopper can find pretty much anything else here, too, on this strip of Broadway a few blocks south of 34th Street. Sports jerseys. Sunglasses. Perfume. DVD’s fresh — maybe a little too fresh — from the big screen. Name-brand sneakers that are probably not. And, of course, Louis Vuitton handbags of uncertain provenance.

The police call it Counterfeit Alley, and say it is the city’s top haven for knockoff, no-name, and flat-out phony goods. In the last two years, the city has seized close to $50 million in counterfeit goods in the area and shut down, under the same nuisance abatement laws used to clean up Times Square, 15 buildings in the area that they said were once occupied almost entirely by counterfeiters.

But thousands of people still pack the area on weekends. Many are New Yorkers, but some travel hundreds of miles via tour bus, dragging suitcases and rolling duffels full of clothes back home to North Carolina or Pennsylvania. To them, it is a poor man’s shopping mall, an admittedly seedy — and therefore affordable — alternative to the gleaming, teeming Herald Square stores a few blocks away.

“It’s the prices you can get, with what little money you have,” said Ellen Counts, 41, of Belleville, Mich. She comes several times a year for socks, underwear and other clothing for her family, and also buys silver jewelry from the nearby wholesalers for her store back home. “We do our Christmas shopping here.”

Though sidewalk vendors abound in the area, most of the shopping in Counterfeit Alley takes place in a handful of old office buildings along Broadway and the side streets. Most have been divided and subdivided into warrens of dingy boutiques and record stores, run more or less like speakeasies. There are no signs or billboards advertising their presence, only clusters of men at the building entrances muttering questions — “CD’s? Sneakers? What you want, man?”

Answer in the affirmative, and you will be led through the maze to your chosen destination. It is not quite the Galleria. The illicit thrill of entering a room full of $40 faux North Face jackets, for example, is easily sapped by the sound of the door being locked behind a shopper’s back.

“Scary, scary,” said Marlene Scott, 48, from Pittsburgh, who stood outside one of the buildings recently. “I’m chicken.” She sticks to the street vendors and the wholesale stores, asking other shoppers for tips.

But on weekends, a steady stream of customers can be seen leaving the office buildings, blinking in the sunlight and clutching the unmarked blue plastic shopping bags used by many of the stores.

“Almost everything around here is a knockoff, man,” said Reginald W. Singleton, a street vendor, on a recent weekend. “So everyone’s a little tense. Anytime they see a white man in there, they assume he’s a cop.” The buyers and sellers on Counterfeit Alley, he pointed out, are typically black.

Mr. Singleton returned to plying his wares. He sells — legitimately, he hastened to say — T-shirts. Big T-shirts. “I sell XL and up,” he said. “2XL, 3XL, all the way to 6XL. I don’t even carry larges anymore.”

“Lady said, ‘If I buy one, do I get one free? And I said, no!’ ” he announced to passers-by. “Nothing free but the conversation.”

Nearby, a fellow street vendor, Carlos Joseph, 50, sold perfumes, his city-issued permit dangling from his neck. Like most of the vendors on Broadway, Mr. Joseph drew a fine distinction between name-brand scents and imitations, which he sells, and counterfeit perfumes, which he does not.

“I do it the legit way because I don’t want any trouble with the law,” he said.

Mr. Joseph sells bottles of Jean-Paul Gaultier perfume for $15; it can cost up to four times more in a store. He said he buys it in bulk from a wholesaler. “That’s real,” he said. Mr. Joseph pointed to another bottle of perfume, unlabeled, but shaped like the one sold at fine department stores under the name of a certain pop star. “The Britney, that’s not.”

Off the street, within the confines of the old office buildings, the boundaries are less clear. Some of the stores sell only legal off-brand products, overstock merchandise, and niche products — Rastafarian religion books, say, or CD’s of traditional Senegalese music. Others sell a mix of off-brands and counterfeits.

“We don’t sell anything illegal,” said a vendor who gave his name only as Dem, and who runs a shop in a Broadway building near 30th Street. “I deal with the closeout companies.” Two-year-old Rocawear jeans, for instance, might sell for under $10. “We’re just trying to make some money,” he said.

But law enforcement officials take a less benign view of the trade, describing the area as rife with crime and counterfeiting. A 2004 report from the city comptroller’s office estimated that New York loses about $1 billion in tax revenue a year from the trade in counterfeit goods, though some analysts say the figure is inflated. The police say they are just as concerned with public safety as lost sales taxes and ripped-off tourists.

“These buildings violate every code in the book,” said John Feinblatt, the city’s criminal justice coordinator. “The exit signs are obliterated, or the fire exits are locked or blocked by boxes of merchandise. They’re firetraps.”

They are also, not infrequently, the scene of burglary, shootings and even murder. Early last year, one vendor was killed and another wounded during an altercation with customers in a building on West 27th Street. Later that summer, a tourist from Baltimore was killed in crossfire when a second-floor CD warehouse on West 29th Street was robbed.

It is partly because of the crime that some local merchants, especially those who run the jewelry stores in the area, say they support enforcement efforts.

“Too much of the avenue is involved in that business,” said Saif Khan, who sells costume jewelry and sunglasses out of a street-front store on Broadway. “If you are selling fake things, you are hurting the city, hurting legitimate businesses.”

About a half dozen buildings in the vicinity continue to contain some amount of the counterfeit trade, the police said. But as enforcement efforts have shut down buildings where the counterfeit stores were heavily concentrated, officials said, entrepreneurs have been relocating, setting up shop in smaller spaces farther up Broadway.

Meanwhile, some of those who run shops in the old office buildings complain that the police, in their zeal to crack down on counterfeiters, harass even legitimate businesses.

“They make life hard. They arrest you for nothing,” said Boubacar Savadogo, who sells no-name fleece jackets and jeans out of a boutique in one Broadway building, where on weekends men stalk the hallways selling imitation iPods. “For me, they find a living, I find a living; you know what I mean? You don’t know if it’s real or not.”

Copyright 2006 The New York TImes Company

brianac
September 13th, 2009, 03:40 PM
MIxed response in the Times to this.

Comments vary from, complete agreement to, "Move to Dallas".



September 11, 2009, 2:40 pm

Complaint Box | Street Clutter

By Julia F. Willkie (http://wirednewyork.com/author/julia-f-willkie/)


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/09/11/nyregion/14stop480.jpgÁngel Franco/The New York Times
Ten newspaper containers crowd the sidewalk on Third Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets.

What really upsets and infuriates me is how cluttered the streets, avenues and sidewalks have become. I live on the Upper East Side, west of Third and four blocks from Mayor Bloomberg’s residence. At the intersection of Third and 79th, three corners host 18 “honor boxes.” Between 77th and 79th on Third are an additional 13 boxes.

Only one of these boxes requires money. All the rest contain either free publications or dried leaves; some serve as storage containers for the homeless. A pedestrian has to navigate around them, but their existence is protected by the right to freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech? What about freedom of movement? Five public phone booths, already covered in advertisements that profit the city, were recently installed on these two blocks. In today’s cellphone world, would not one have sufficed?

And how many street vendors have set up tables and racks hawking scarves, sheets, handbags, dresses, bed linens, jewelry and such? I counted a total of 12 between 77th and 79th. Then there are three umbrella fruit stands, one hot dog stand and two hot food carts.

Many of the neighborhood shops disappeared when the Empire Condominium was built at 78th Street: stationers, a lighting store, a fabric and notions shop, a small lock and hardware store and a reasonable plant store. Recently, another developer has leveled all the smaller buildings on Third and 79th on the southeast corner (loss of a newspaper store, butchers, two popular local restaurants, a coffee shop and thrift charity store). The large site is currently boarded up and covered in more advertisements.

Welcome to the neighborhood. There are currently three empty stores — double it, if you move up or down Third by one block. But merchandise and food is hawked directly from the sidewalks.

Many of these stands are overseen by people who park their vans next to their outside stores and never feed the parking meters. A regular driver who dares to tarry 30 seconds will be issued a steep ticket. (Remember Mike Wallace — arrested at 79th and Third when he stopped to pick up an order of meatloaf?)

What’s next? Happy to report a Cemusa newspaper stand for the northeast corner of 79th and Third, covered in the requisite ads! These large stands are creeping up everywhere, further blocking the streetscapes but adding dollars to the city that has granted Cemusa the license to build the stands and bus shelters (once again sporting large ads) throughout Manhattan.

Good Heavens! My head tilts back so I can clear my vision, and street banner advertisements, approved by New York City’s tourism officials, are hanging from lampposts.

The center of the Upper East Side is beginning to resemble a hardened hooker of the night, flaunting her dingy petticoats for all to see. She can’t afford to move, or to ply her trade from inside an expensive flat. Only CVS, Duane Reade and banks (four in the cited two blocks) can pay the rent.

Julia F. Willkie, a director on the board of her cooperative on East 79th Street, resigned from her job as a residential property manager five years ago.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/complaint-box-street-clutter/?ref=nyregion

Copyright 2009 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)