A grocer in DUMBO has posted signs urging customers not to give money to the panhandlers who congregate near the entrance — the latest salvo in an ongoing war against beggars in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
“We’ve heard from more than half our customers that they’ve been harassed by panhandlers in front of the store,” said Maik Fawzy, the manager of Peas & Pickles, the neighborhood’s largest supermarket. “We’ve actually had loyal customers who stopped coming here because of it.”
The signs encourage patrons to report “harassment” to the store’s management and reminds customers that it’s better to donate to legitimate charities than to individuals on the street.
The anti-panhandling notices are the latest example of DUMBO’S ongoing struggle with begging.
At a DUMBO Improvement District meeting in October, neighborhood residents implored the police to crack down.
But John Kenny, a crime prevention officer from the 84th Precinct, told the audience that begging is a First Amendment right — though there are limits against aggressive cadging. Kenny’s advice for curtailing the problem was the same as that on the signs in Peas & Pickles — stop giving handouts.
“People who understand panhandling have come to the neighborhood to explain that the only thing you can do if you want these people to go away is stop giving them money,” said Tucker Reed, executive director of the DUMBO Improvement District.
Around the same time, a new Web site, DUMBOwatch, made vague promises that it would take pictures of all panhandlers.
Given the anti-panhandling attitude in DUMBO, it’s no surprise that at least one of the mendicants had a strong opinion about the new Peas & Pickles sign.
“That sign can kiss my ass — and so can you,” he told a Brooklyn Paper reporter on Friday.
His fellow panhandler said she doesn’t think the pair bothers anyone — even after the male half of the team had just been ticketed by a cop from the 84th Precinct for disorderly conduct at the corner of Washington and Front streets.
“I’m just out here trying to get mine like everyone else,” she said.
They would not reveal their names.
— with Adam F. Hutton