Monday, November 17, 2008

Vendor Hearing Chaos

If anything could convince you that the city is clueless when it comes to regulating street vending, Friday's City Council hearing would have done the trick-the city agencies in charge who testified acted as if they had gotten off at the wrong station; barely acknowledging the eight bills on tap for discussion. As the NY Times reported:

"The first two hours of the hearing were taken up with discussion on those measures, including testimony by officials from the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Police Department. But then the hearing veered off course when Shari C. Hyman, the mayor’s deputy criminal justice coordinator, spoke. She said that the Bloomberg administration wanted to change state law to require the fingerprinting of people arrested for unlawful vending — a means of cracking down, she said, on unlicensed vendors who unfairly compete with licensed vendors, crowd sidewalks and endanger pedestrians."

Unable to come to grips with-let alone comprehend-just how chaotic the city streets have become in some neighborhoods, the administration simply went off on an irrelevant tangent; prompting angry responses from council members: "You say you don’t like any of the bills in any shape or form and you just want to talk about your bill, which you never introduced?” Councilman Leroy G. Comrie of Queens, who led the hearing in his role as chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee, asked Ms. Hyman. “This is incredible,” said Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn. “You’re just talking to us about fingerprinting and not addressing any of the issues, whether it be police harassment or overcrowding.”

Or the fact that the legal vendors are operating illegally and hurting thousands of neighborhood retailers. Michael Murphy from the Restaurant Association, testifying with us at the hearing, put his finger squarely on the problem: "Representatives of the restaurant industry, which sees itself as competing with the food vendors, disagreed. A member of the New York State Restaurant Association, Michael Murphy, said: “This proposed intro is a direct threat to thousands of neighborhood retailers who are struggling in an era of rising rent, higher taxes, and increased regulatory abuse.”

And the Times also relates testimony from our labor allies: "John Durso, president of Local 338 of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/United Food and Commercial Workers, cited similar economic factors, saying food vendors selling produce could hurt grocery stores. “The proliferation of these carts near established food stores, combined with the downturn in the economy, have resulted in the expected closing of six stores where we represent workers, five in northern Manhattan, one in southern Queens.”

Just so. That is why we are working with our business, labor and community coalition to draft real enforcement legislation that will address the wild west nature of the situation. During hard economic times, with stores closing in unprecedented waves, shifting business to the streets is not only asinine, it also exacerbates an already dire situation; underscoring once again, how out of touch the Bloombergistas are with neighborhoods and small business.