Fall 2003, p.10

Vendors Clogging City Sidewalks

The number of sidewalk vendors, like these men in Midtown Manhattan, has greatly increased. More sidewalk vendors means even less sidewalk space in heavily traveled areas.

The number of sidewalk vendors, like these men in Midtown Manhattan, has greatly increased. More sidewalk vendors means even less sidewalk space in heavily traveled areas.

As anyone who has recently tried to make their way through Harlem, Times Square or SoHo knows, there has been an explosion of street vendors hogging the scarce sidewalk space on New York City streets. Since the recent expiration of a 1998 regulatory statute, vendors, who number in the hundreds, have been able to set up shop wherever they please. Compounding the problem, so-called First Amendment vendors, who sell books, newspapers and art, have followed regular vendors back onto the sidewalks. The addition of yet more street vendors has led to the appearance of mini-bazaars on New York City's already crowded sidewalks. The current situation amounts to a free-for-all that compromises pedestrian safety and punishes tax-paying businesses. Comprehensive legislation that gives New York City's sidewalks back to pedestrians and regulates all vendors is needed to sort out this mess. Supposedly, legislation is pending in Albany. But lawmakers need to act fast and decisively to squelch this problem, and give New York City's sidewalks back to its residents.

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