Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Manhattan's CB #8 Takes the Lead on Vendors

The Alliance has been taking the lead on the issue of the proliferation of fruit vendors all over Manhattan and we are glad to report that Community Board #8 has taken the first proactive step against the growing menace by passing a resolution at its January meeting that calls for greater regulation and enforcement of the vendor problem. The Board's reso is directed at all vendors but its provisions need to be examined by the City Council because quite a few of them need to be incorporated into new law.

The main thrust of the board's concern is the manner in which these vendors pose a threat to pedestrian safety. Pointedly, the board is worried that "current rules governing street vendors do not adequately protect the public and allow pedestrians to move freely..." It also indicates that the current rules "allow too many vendors in a given area..." This was the Alliance's point in our opposition to the council's stoop stand bill, a measure that was directed at store owners rather than vendors.

Board #8 also makes a number of other strong points. In particular, it underscores the threat that these peddlers pose to local store owners. In doing so, it points out that:
"The Community Board supports local stores that pay taxes and are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the sidewalks in front of their establishments...street vendors routinely ignore the cleanliness of the areas they occupy..."
After highlighting the scope of the problem Board #8 resolves the following items that the Alliance finds to be especially compelling:

1) Any street restricted to sidewalk cafe's should be restricted to street vendors

2) The city should establish a dedicated enforcement group similar to the Traffic Enforcement Unit specializing in vendor enforcement

3) The city should reinstate the Vendor Review Panel

4) The city should consider instituting 24 foot clearances for pedestrians on all sidewalks where vending is permitted

5) The ruleas governing vendors need to be standardized for easier enforcement; and (our favorite)

6) A street vendor should be restricted from selling outside a store that sells the same merchandise
All of this is good work by Board #8 and should be replicated across the city by each community board. The Alliance will be leading the way here. In addition, we have here the foundation that the City Council can use and expand upon in its tackling of the overall vendor problem.