It’s a vendor-detta!
A local panel voted unanimously this week to ban all street vendors from a stretch of Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, even though there’s just one food vendor on the strip.
Still, local storefront businesses, represented by the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, convinced Community Board 10 that any vendor would be poison to mom-and-pops. So the board voted last Monday to write a letter to the city’s Department of Small Business Services requesting that all vendors be forbidden along the avenue between 65th Street to 85th Street.
The ban would put Nagi Hassan, who has an halal food truck on Fifth and Bay Ridge Parkway, out of business on the avenue.
For the ban to take effect, the city will have to convene an obscure, four-member street vendor review panel — last initiated 13 years ago — empowered with determining where street vendors can and cannot set up shop.
But that won’t come easy.
According to the city’s administrative code, the panel has the power to prohibit the operation of vendors, “on any street, at any time,” after making a determination that the vending business would “constitute a serious and immediate threat to the health, safety and well-being of the public on the ground that such street at such time is regularly too congested by pedestrian or vehicular traffic to permit the operation of such business” — circumstances that do not necessarily exist along the avenue.
But the BID thinks CB10 can make a case for the ban.
“The sidewalk is greasy and dirty and they don’t clean up after themselves,” said Jim Clark said of vendors, adding that property vendors “do not want this trailer on their property,”
Reaction from residents has been mixed.
“I think they provide a service,” said Marie Gussie, who added she was fine with the vendors “as long as they don’t take away business from stores.”
Others say the ends don’t justify the means.
“It’s a residential area. But it doesn’t look nice,” said Jeanie Boffardi. “Everybody has got to make a living, but I don’t like the way it looks,”
The city’s Department of Health, which has oversight on food vendors outside of city parks, said the agency is unaware of any complaints against Hassan.
Vendors on city streets do not have to pay the city for their space — but do have to cough up $200 for a permit and $125 in licensing and fees.
Vendor advocates said the board’s vote and the BID’s determination is misguided — and antithetical to anyone claiming to support a free market economy.
“If the vendor offers better prices, better services, and does everything better, than it’s sad for the rest of the businesses, but good for the vendor, who is the ultimate small business,” said Matthew Shapiro, an attorney with the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center, a not-for-profit advocacy group.
And vendors are good for public safety, Shapiro added, referring to the street-sellers who helped alert authorities to a car bomb in Times Square earlier this month.
— with Helen Klein