Veni, Vend-i, Vici: Dyker Heights merchants defeat Brannan with help from disabled veterans

veteran vendors
Loophole: Eddie Cumart, who owns Brooklyn Ice Cream, says he’s allowed to vend in Dyker Heights because of his special veteran license.
Photo by Rose Adams

Food vendors have outfoxed Dyker Heights Councilman Justin Brannan thanks to the help of disabled veterans, who allow merchants to exploit a loophole in a new law forbidding food trucks from idling around the neighborhood’s iconic holiday lights display. 

“We have been told by the police department that they would not enforce the vendor ban for the area,” said Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of the local community board, who claims that she sees about two to three vendors in Dyker Heights every night. “Residents in the area were hoping for some relief…it’s very difficult.” 

The City Council passed legislation authored by Brannan in October that prohibits street vendors from operating in the neighborhood between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

The legislation was hailed as a victory for Dyker residents, who had complained for years that hordes food vendors had invaded the area during the holiday season — when the area is flooded by tourists come to view the famous ‘Dyker Lights’ displays.

But Brannan’s legislative victory was short-lived, and the same vendors who plagued the neighborhood last year showed up in early December — this time in the company of disabled veterans, who are permitted by state laws dating back to 1894 to operate as sidewalk merchants with few exceptions, according to a Brooklyn Eagle report. 

The Councilman laid the blame on city agencies and local cops, saying the vendors’ return was due to lax enforcement, not a legislative loophole. 

“It is very frustrating because six million lawyers looked at this bill before we got it passed,” he said. “The law is crystal clear. The city needs to enforce the law as it was written.”

But police ruled against Brannan, saying any vendor employing disabled veterans is free to operate around Dyker Heights, although a spokesman noted that one vendor — who was not accompanied by veterans — has been ticketed since the ban went into effect.

And the owner of Brooklyn Ice Cream — which operates a fleet of ice cream trucks in the area and  employs 11 disabled veterans — said Brannan needs to brush up on the law, and that his business is perfectly legal thanks to his servicemen and women behind the counter.

“I know the law better than Justin Brannan,” he said.