Vendor, Vidi, Vici?

The City Council has enacted a bill, sponsored by Margaret Chin, which will expand the zone surrounding the World Trade Center that is off limits to street vendors.

The original catchment, in effect since 2004, barred food vendors and souvenir hawkers from a district bounded by Liberty, Vesey, and West Streets, and Broadway. The larger footprint named in the new bill expands this zone to Barclay Street on the north, and to Cedar Street on the South, with an additional new, vendor-free corridor created along Greenwich Street, between Liberty and Thames Streets.

This map illustrates the larger catchment that the New York Police Department requested for exclusion of vendors.

While the expansion of the no-go sector for vendors has been controversial (especially among advocates for sellers of street food), it represents a compromise from the larger zone originally requested by the New York Police Department, which would have also ruled Zuccotti Park out of bounds.

This may represent a significant upside for vendors, who populate that square-block park with more than a dozen food carts each day, along with multiple souvenir stands.

This measure comes at a time when street vendors face significant pressure in Lower Manhattan. In addition to the security concerns that drove the Police Department’s request  for a larger area without vendors, their proliferation is widely perceived to be a significant source of congestion on streets that are jammed with ten of thousands of local residents, hundreds of thousands of office workers, and several million annual tourist visitors.

In a separate, but related, development, the owners of 140 Broadway have announced plans to reconfigure their street plaza (known to Downtown residents of the site of the large, red cube sculpture by artist Isamu Noguchi) in such a way that will make it impossible for food vendors to park their carts there.

Further to the south, vendors congregate daily in Battery Park and the area surrounding the Staten Island Ferry. At least some of the sellers in this area are known to offer fraudulent tickets to the Statue of Liberty, and have occasionally engaged in violent confrontations with one another, or their customers.

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