Lawmakers reach deal on NYC vendor restrictions

Friday, February 27, 2004

Editor’s note: On March 2, New York’s Legislature passed the bill described below governing street vending. Gov. George Pataki is expected to sign it.

NEW YORK — State lawmakers have reached an agreement on new legislation that would replace a lapsed law governing street vendors on the city’s sidewalks.

“Without this law, many streets have been clogged with vendors, making it hazardous for pedestrians and hurting our quality of life,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement yesterday.

The new legislation, to be introduced on March 1, was expected to pass both the Assembly and the Senate. A aide to Gov. George Pataki said the governor would likely sign it.

The new law would expand the regulated areas to include a stretch of 42nd Street and the area surrounding the World Trade Center site, banning all vending in the immediate vicinity of Ground Zero. It would also prohibit vending within five feet of a street corner.

The measure would also increase the number of vending licenses given to disabled veterans, a group that has been given special licensing consideration for more than a century.

Other vendors, dubbed “First Amendment” vendors because they sell constitutionally protected art and printed material, are legally allowed to set up anywhere that any type of sidewalk vending is permitted.

When the 1991 state law lapsed on March 31 last year, restrictions on the number of disabled veterans allowed to move into certain banned spots were lifted. Wherever disabled veterans moved, “First Amendment” vendors could follow.

The resulting increase in vending in parts of midtown led to complaints and press coverage — but vendors who had not been allowed in certain spots were happy to set up in the new territory.

Calling it “deceptive,” street artist and activist Robert Lederman said he was unhappy with the proposed law. “Agreeing to be banned from any part of the City in exchange for financial advantages … is agreeing to giving up your Constitutional rights, your equal protection under the law and your human rights,” Lederman wrote in an e-mail.

“No US civil rights group be they women, Blacks, gays, the handicapped, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, the elderly etc would ever tolerate such a ban let alone support it. Not even dogs are banned from a single street in NYC,” Lederman wrote.

Bloomberg’s statement said, “When this law is passed and signed by Governor Pataki, vendors will know where and when they can operate, and pedestrians will find our streets safer and more welcoming.”

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