Street Vendors call proposed bill a death warrant: NYC FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 28 Mar 1999 01:38:58 -0800 (PST)

Date: 1999/03/24

An open letter to all members of the New York City Council

On Thursday 3/25/99 at 1 P.M. there will be a hearing on Intro. #511, the
proposed new vending bill.

Some of you have recently distinguished yourselves by taking a
stand against the Mayor and his evolving police state. You
allowed yourselves to be arrested to protest the killing of a West
African street vendor, Amadou Diallo. For that brief act of
symbolic resistance I offer you my thanks and that of the Cityís
thousands of vendors. Now however, you are called upon to do
something that will take courage of a different kind.

One can be certain that as a black street vendor, Mr. Dialloís
persecution by the Giuliani police state did not abruptly begin
the night he was shot 41 times. Vendors, especially black
vendors, are all too familiar with the repressive tactics, racism
and violence that distinguish this administration.

Intro. #511 and the corresponding closings of more than 100
streets recently passed by the Mayorís panel of appointees
proposes to do to all vendors what the street crimes unit did to
Mr. Diallo. Intro. #511 is a death warrant for vendors.

Like many of the laws and policies the Mayor and City Council
have previously crafted to benefit powerful corporate and real
estate interests, this bill is profoundly unfair, riddled with
illegalities and violates basic principles of the U.S. Constitution.
During the past two years in which this bill was being written
Iíve discussed it with Council Members, lawyers for the Council
and the heads of some of the Cityís most powerful B.I.D.s
(Business Improvement Districts). Many of them have candidly
admitted to me and to others that this bill was written by the
B.I.D.s, that everyone involved knows it is unconstitutional and
that it blatantly violates free speech and equal protection.

Let me take their candid admission a step further. This bill is
profoundly racist and anti-immigrant. One need only take a brief
walk outside your tax-payer funded offices on Broadway,
Chambers Street or City Hall to see who this bill is designed to
target. African-American veterans selling books about Martin
Luther King, the history of slavery and African culture. Elderly
Chinese women unable to get a below minimum wage job in an
illegal Chinatown sweatshop selling hair combs and stockings.
Middle Eastern immigrants whoíve invested their life savings in a
cart selling coffee and donuts. Street artists from a hundred
different nations selling art to low income and minority New
Yorkers who are sneered at if they visit a SoHo or 57th Street art

The Council Members most closely associated with this bill,
Fisher, Freed and Wiener are a rouges gallery of real estate
interest employees. Ex-Council Member Wiener, who publicly
claimed that because his name is Wiener heís, ìthe best friend a
hot dog vendor could haveî, told me after we did an interview
with Bill Beutel on channel 7 that the main reason he was
involved in this bill was, ìto keep food vendors from setting up
in my districtî. Council Member Freed is simultaneously known
as the most anti-vendor member of the City Council, as an
anti-Asian racist and as a vicious persecutor of the Cityís street
artists. Freed and her vigilante ìactivistî group, the SoHo
Alliance, tried to eliminate all First Amendment protection for
visual art as a means to eliminate street artists from her district.
Just a few days ago Council Member Fisher held a press
conference proposing to make it illegal to take cardboard,
newspapers, magazines and cans out of the garbage, giving the
NYPD yet another absurd reason to arrest homeless people
needing cardboard for beds, street artists making protest signs to
denounce the Mayor and the hundreds of black New Yorkers that
make an honest living selling used magazines and books on the

If you take the time to read Intro #511 rather than blindly
accepting the assurances of its sponsors, youíll find that it does
nothing whatsoever to help actual vendors or the public. Besides
the B.I.D.s, the only people it does help are multiple permit food
vending corporations that spent years lobbying the billís
sponsors. Every single clause in this bill is carefully tailored to
unfairly benefit these food vending monopolies at the expense of
independent vendors.

Behind the scene the Mayor, his flunkies in the Department of
Finance, the B.I.D.s, and the publishers of two newspapers that
started B.I.D.s have manipulated the media to portray these food
vending corporations as the ìrepresentativesî and ìleadersî of
the Cityís thousands of vendors. Nothing could be further from
the truth. They are despised by the Cityís vendors as was evident
on 3/16/99 when, without the support of street artists, general
vendors or the vast majority of food vendors they held a ìrallyî
attended by  only 40 people. Among the 40 who did attend at
least half admitted they did not support these ìleadersî and knew
they were being sold out. Some City Council Members that I
know to be among the few advocates for the poor and minorities
in City government were tricked into appearing at a press
conference on the steps of City Hall with these ìleadersî.

Youíve previously been sent, by e-mail, a point by point analysis
of Intro. #511. You can find it on the website listed below and
another copy of it will follow this letter. On behalf of the Cityís
more than 20,000 vendors, 90% of whom are minorities and more
than half of whom are black, I urge you to look deeply into your
souls before voting to support this bill in any form.

It is hypocrisy of the rankest kind to stand up against the murder
of one vendor, Amadou Diallo, while supporting the elimination
of thousands of his brother and sister vendors from the Cityís
public streets. Do the right thing and vote against Intro. #511.

Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T.
(Artistsí Response To Illegal State Tactics)
(718) 369-2111 255 13th St Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215
e mail


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