Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Intro 621 Hearing

On Wednesday afternoon the City Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee held its second hearing on Intro 621, a bill that would dramatically increase the number of vendors on city streets. The Neighborhood Retail Alliance was joined by Jack Katz of the Flatbush BID, Renee Giordano of the Sunset Park 5th Avenue BID, Harold Grabino of the Kings Highway BID as well as supermarket owner Morty Sloan and Disabled Veteran Leader Beazer Pitiger. Quite remarkable was the fact that the Administration, including the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Police Department and the Health Department, also voiced their opposition to the Intro. There is something seriously wrong with a piece of legislation when we are in total agreement with the DCA.

In our view, the bill represents the kind of thinking that the late sociologist C. Wright Mills called “crackpot rationality." This is the kind of thinking that takes a totally flawed and untenable concept – flooding commercial areas with loads more street vendors – and then proceeds to try to figure out all kinds of clever methods to make it somehow tenable.

When will our elected officials wake up and realized that the store owners of this city are not a piñata to be beaten? City tax and regulatory policies are already creating an intolerable burden on neighborhood stores. Many of these stores, those located in one of the myriad Business Improvement Districts, are taxed twice just to get basic city services. On top of all this, Phil Reed wants more vendors.

Maybe we should make a deal. Let the city repeal the commercial real estate tax – the one that led to a 20% rent hike for most store owners – and the so-called bodega tax on cigarettes – the one that took $250 million out of the pockets of newsstand dealers, green grocers and bodegueros – and then perhaps we can sit down and talk about some marginal increase in street vending. Until then, let’s give Intro 621 the proper burial it deserves.

So far it seems that a burial is indeed what's in store for Councilman Reed's proposal. There is very little support for the bill within the Council and administration, small business and vendors opposition is intense. We'll keep you updated.

And Let us know what you think. Sound off here on the city’s regulatory policies. We are especially looking for the single stupidest fine given to a neighborhood retailer. We’ll be sure to give it wide circulation.