NYC street vendors protest: ACLU to challenge restrictions FWD

Tom Boland (
Wed, 10 Jun 1998 02:13:09 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer -  June 4, 1998

"American Civil Liberties Union attorneys plan to challenge the
restrictions on artists and booksellers on First Amendment grounds." --
from article below


     Giuliani is pushing to ban them from much of Manhattan.
     He points to sidewalk congestion.

     By Henry Goldman - Inquirer Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- In the city that made the hot dog famous, there were few to be
found yesterday, as hundreds of food vendors kept their carts off the
streets and marched through lower Manhattan to protest new rules
restricting where they can do business.

The new limits on street selling, pushed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and
approved by the city's Street Vendor Review Panel last week, will ban
peddlers from 144 blocks in midtown and lower Manhattan. Another proposal,
to be voted upon in two weeks, would extend the ban an additional 90 blocks
throughout Manhattan.

The restrictions scheduled to go into effect next month will remove about
350 of the city's 3,100 food vendors from sites many have used for years,
and force them to compete with other vendors on less trafficked blocks
where vending will be permitted.

Hundreds of other vendors who sell everything from books and poetry to
sunglasses and sweat shirts will also be affected by the ban.

Giuliani said the restrictions would reduce sidewalk congestion. Food
vendors say he is favoring restaurant and property owners by driving
peddlers out of business.

"What am I going to do? I must feed my family," said Mohammad M. Alam, 54,
the father of four, who has manned a financial-district hot dog stand since
coming here from Bangladesh five years ago.

He was one of about 2,000 vendors who marched yesterday down lower Broadway
toward Battery Park on Manhattan's southern tip, carrying handmade placards
denouncing Giuliani. Their shouts -- "We want to work!" -- echoed through
the narrow, canyonlike streets. Joining the food vendors were hundreds of
street artists and booksellers.

"You've got to ask yourself, what is America about?" said Robert Lederman,
an artist who had to stop selling near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"Many of us are filling an important cultural niche in the city --
providing work and expression that otherwise will be silenced."

American Civil Liberties Union attorneys plan to challenge the restrictions
on artists and booksellers on First Amendment grounds.

Food vendors might challenge restrictions, too, on due-process grounds,
said Norman Siegel, director of the ACLU's New York office.

If the goal was to reduce congestion, the absence of vending carts
certainly worked. Streets appeared almost eerily empty.

John Luongo, installing marble in a new gourmet take-out delicatessen in
the Trump Tower on Wall Street, didn't like it. He said he never noticed
congestion from the vendors.

"I came here this morning, and it was like a ghost town," he said. "I
couldn't find a cup of coffee. What are we supposed to do? Go to one of
these fancy places and spend $2?"

Many watched the protest with sympathy. "I voted for Giuliani and agree
with a lot of what he's done, but this is really uncalled for," said Norman
Gordon, 50, a stockbroker and lifelong Manhattanite who said he bought a
pretzel and a soda from a vendor every afternoon.

The perception that Giuliani may be out of step with the public emboldened
two City Council members yesterday to propose a law abolishing the street
vending panel.

Vendors and peddlers are viewed favorably by many New Yorkers as part of
the city's tradition. The hot dog, after all, is said to have been invented
in New York in 1900 -- by Nathan Handwerker, of Nathan's Famous.

"What Giuliani doesn't understand is that most people view the hot dog man
as a part of this city as much if not more as the skyscrapers and the big
corporations," said council member Stephen DiBrienza of Brooklyn.

Not everyone agrees.

"It's simply a matter of congestion and traffic. We felt we had to take
action," said Carl Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New
York, a business-improvement district. The group has petitioned to ban
vendors from about 20 percent of lower Manhattan's 550 block fronts.

Inside the Liberty Gourmet Deli & Bakery at 32 Broadway, which is one of
the blocks where street vending will be banned, owner George Liberatos said
he was no fan of the vendors and was happy they took the day off. His
breakfast business was up 75 percent and lunch was busy, too.

"We feel great today without them; they take a lot of business away from
us," he said of the five food vending carts that set up within 50 feet of
his eatery each day. "They offer a 60-cent cup of coffee, so we offer a
60-cent cup of coffee, but we have to pay rent here.


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