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BIDs Exploit immigrant Vendors: Using Intro #846 To Destroy Vending Citywide by Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T. artistpres@gmail.

com (SEE: for a detailed analysis of each of more than 20 vending Intros now before the City Council) [B.I.D.s are Business Improvement Districts. Sunset Park is a neighborhood in Brooklyn] I just finished reading the Sunset Park BIDs 50 page proposal for a new set of vending laws (also known as Intro #846). If passed into law by the NY City Council, this BID would assume total control over all forms of vending within a 26 block area. But this BIDs agenda is far more ambitious than just that. Their proposal describes Intro #846 as, "A model that will create the positive momentum for a review of all citywide vending regulations and the creation of a clear and fair set of regulations for the entire city." All the BIDs are awaiting the outcome to see if they can apply Intro # 846 to their section of NYC. A PILOT PROGRAM TO DESTROY VENDING RIGHTS CITYWIDE During the 11/14/08 City Council hearing on Intro # 846, Councilmember Comrie, the Consumer Affairs Committee chair, called Intro #846, "a pilot program for the entire city." If this law passes, ALL the BIDs and their City Council puppets absolutely plan to use it as a precedent for putting ALL vending into the hands of the BIDs, including vending by First Amendment protected artists, book vendors, disabled vets, food vendors and general merchandise vendors. Intro #846 gives this BID the right to assign all vending spots including those used by artists and veterans; to severely limit how many artists and disabled veteran vendors can sell there (it proposes 2 per block); to run lotteries to determine which vendors will be allowed work, and to decide where vending will be tolerated (it will only be allowed on side streets). The proposal further describes it's plan for the vendors to themselves become part of the BID, which would mean that they would have to pay the BID it's assessed fee just as all stores do. In other words, these immigrant vendors must finance the very BID that is marginalizing them to side streets.

The BIDs proposal describes vendors in the Sunset Park area as not paying taxes, creating filth, obstructing streets and sidewalks, unfairly competing with businesses, selling shoddy merchandise, cheating customers etc. Only a fool would believe this BID is trying to "help" immigrant vendors. THE BID AGENDA IS ALWAYS THE SAME: Get rid of the vendors Most NYC BIDs were created for just one purpose: getting rid of legal vending. For example, page 1 of the Sunset Park BIDs proposal states: "For a decade, street vending has been the number one concern of the BID and it's 500 members." Since the BID is only ten years old, that means limiting vending has been their entire focus. * A granddaughter of the founder of the Fifth Avenue Association BID (the first in NYC) discovered a manuscript written by another relative of that BIDs founder many years ago. It describes the Fifth Avenue Association as being created to, "Keep Jewish peddlers off of Fifth Avenue." * The Manhattan BIDs initiated the city's street artist arrest policy in 1993. While wrapping themselves in the flag at every public event, these same BIDs have spent decades trying to eliminate a handful of disabled war veteran vendors from Midtown. * In the mid 1990's the 125th Street BID got Mayor Giuliani to eliminate the entire community of African American vendors from historic 125th Street. The Fulton Street BID similarly destroyed a vital African American vending community in Brooklyn. One could list every single BID and find that a local effort by their area's leading business and real estate people to destroy vending has been the main focus and in many instances, the only purpose, for each BID existing. BIDs are anti immigrant, anti homeless and anti vendor to the core. The very nature of BIDs is antithetical to democracy, freedom and civil liberties. Their essential purpose is to privatize all public space on behalf of corporations and real estate interests. Freedom of speech and the right to exercise it in public space is the necessary target of everything BIDs do. BIDs are far more of a threat to public safety than even the worst behaving vendors could ever be. Every sidewalk obstructing planter in these BIDs districts (there are thousands) exists, according to sworn

testimony by a top NYPD vending official, for the purpose of stopping legal vendors from setting up in legal vending spaces. These same BIDs wrote most of the proposed vending laws now before the NY City Council. Today, many NYC Councilmembers are nothing more than BID finger-puppets. EXPLOITING IMMIGRANT VENDORS IN ORDER TO PRIVATIZE VENDING For more than 100 years NYC BIDs and the business protection groups that were their predecessors have demonized immigrants, minority vendors, street artists, disabled veterans and book vendors. But this time, they are taking a novel approach to the issue of vendor extermination. The Sunset Park BID has managed to convince a number of advocates for Latino vendors in their area, that turning their fate over to the BID will allow their abused clients to survive. Frankly, I'm surprised that politically savvy activists like these would allow themselves to be duped into aiding a plan as reactionary, undemocratic and elitist as Intro # 846. But it's not hard to understand how the BID accomplished it. These Latino vendors have been brutally targeted by the BID, harassed, arrested and had their merchandise confiscated on a regular basis for years. No group of vendors gets harsher treatment. Who is behind this excessive enforcement; is it mean spirited, racist police? No. All the anti vendor pressure in Sunset Park is coming 100% from the Sunset Park BID. Every single summons, arrest or confiscation was done at the request of this same BID. GOOD COP, BAD COP The BID has played a very ingenious scam on these vendors, tricking them into thinking it wants to create a vendor market like the ones they are familiar with in Mexico and other Latin American countries. First they played "bad cop," driving them to desperation by constant harassment. Of course, neither the BID nor the police ever told the vendors exactly who was ordering their arrests. Then they approached the vendors and their advocates with "good cop" offers of "compromise" and the notion that what the BID wanted was just order and to "help the poor vendors" create the kind of vending market they knew from back home.

What the BID is really up to is exploiting these immigrant vendors as a weapon to make it appear that privatization of vending would be good for all concerned. One proof that "helping the local resident vendors from Sunset Park" is not the purpose of Intro # 846 is their stated ambition of applying this law to the entire city. Everything the Sunset Park BID is doing is intended as a legal precedent to later apply citywide. SHOULD WE BLAME THE IMMIGRANT VENDORS? No one can blame these immigrants for being sucked up into this scam. Compared to being brutally arrested every day, becoming subservient to the BID might seem like a pretty good deal to anyone. Being recent immigrants, they may not fully understand that in NYC, vending rights are almost never "granted" by government officials. Most of the vending rights in NYC were won when artists, vets and other vendors resisted the city's anti-vendor policies, fought the BIDs, sued in court and won. If it was up to city officials or BIDs, vending would have been completely eliminated long ago. The Mexican model of vending cooperatives working closely with local government officials that the BID is pretending to be creating in Sunset Park has no relationship to how vending works in NYC. While I have no problem at all with these unlicensed food and general merchandise Sunset Park vendors developing a system that works for them locally, the problem is that their local area has nothing to do with where this law is actually intended to be used. It is ALL about creating a model for corporate control and privatization of vending and then applying it citywide. Once in place, this system would strip every artist, disabled veteran and licensed vendor of their existing rights, turning them all over to their traditional enemy, the BIDs. WHAT GOOD IS A VENDING LICENSE WITHOUT A PLACE TO USE IT? Once vending privatization as envisioned by the BIDs progresses, the very last people who will be in a financial position to successfully bid for the few remaining vending spots will be poor immigrant vendors. Issuing them thousands of new licenses as is being proposed by some Councilmembers will be meaningless if the BIDs control all the vending spots, exactly as Intro # 846 would establish. This is a cold blooded scam by the BIDs. They are exploiting the sincere wishes of unlicensed immigrant vendors to become fully

legitimate members of the business community so as to destroy these same immigrant vendors and all other NYC vendors and street artists. WHO WROTE INTRO # 846? I quote from page 2 of the Sunset Park BID proposal: "The BID decided to try a new approach. They asked the consultant who formed the BID to provide them with a new vision [Intro #846]." In other words, the very same BID consultant who formed the Sunset Park BID, wrote Intro # 846. The proposal describes vending exactly as the Downtown Alliance's frontman, Councilmember Gerson has done, calling it, "confusing," "convoluted," and "impossible to enforce." It goes on to quote vendorhating former NYC Mayor Giuliani's Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra describing vending law as a, "smelly onion." Not coincidentally, Dykstra was the founder of the Times Sq BID, one of the most virulently anti-vendor organizations in NYC history. These are the kind of vendor hating "experts" the Sunset Park BID looks to for guidance on this issue. ARE THE VENDING LAWS REALLY UNENFORCEABLE? What BIDs have against the existing 60 pages of vending law has nothing to do with vending laws being "confusing," or "unenforceable." Their real problem is that vendors have rights. Artists and written matter vendors are protected by the First Amendment. Both are exempt from any license requirement or park permit. Disabled veterans have a NY State law that allows them to vend on many otherwise restricted streets as a reward for their military service. Food and licensed general merchandise vendors have slightly different regulations. ALL vendors, including artists, have numerous restrictions on the size of their display, as well as where it can be placed on a sidewalk. Anyone who can read can understand the vending laws. Any police officer could readily enforce them. But the BIDs don't want the police to enforce these laws. They want the situation to get worse, allowing tens of thousands of unlicensed vendors to freely sell so as to create a demand for radical new vending laws that will put all vendors into the hands of the BIDs. AN EXAMPLE OF THE EXISTING LAW

As an example of the vending laws being both understandable and enforceable, let's look at the laws for street artists. We are limited to a display no larger than 8' in length by 3' in width by 5' in height. We must be 20' from a door, 10' from a corner. We cannot attach our stand to any meters, hydrants or lightpoles. We can only sell on a sidewalk that is 12' or wider. There is a Consumer Affairs official list of streets we are restricted from selling on. Because First Amendment vendors can sell on any street that any other vendor is allowed to sell on, if a disabled vet sets up legally on an otherwise restricted street, artists can as well. Lastly, we must have a state tax ID. That single paragraph is basically the entire vending law for street artists. For each other category, there is a similar list of readily understandable restrictions. How hard is any of that single paragraph to enforce? If an artist has a stand that is too large, too close to a door or is on a restricted street, they can be summonsed, confiscated or even arrested. There is nothing convoluted, confusing or impossible to enforce about any of it. Every category of vendor is likewise subject to arrest, summons and confiscation. To protect public health, a food vendor obviously needs some different rules than an artist. That there are different categories of vendors with somewhat different rules is no different than the legal fact that adults and children have different legal rules. Passenger cars and trucks likewise have different rules. Handicapped people can park where other drivers cannot. Police must deal with these rational legal differences every day in every set of laws they enforce. Should we toss out all these differences and just mash everyone into one category so to simplify all police enforcement? If the Councilmembers cannot understand the vending laws they themselves wrote, maybe the problem is with them, not the laws. SHOULD ARTISTS FOLLOW THE BID LAW or THE US CONSTITUTION? What the BID wants with Intro #846, is to make one very simple, unconfusing law: Whatever the BID says, that is the law. This kind of fascist corporate-sponsored "law" is something all Americans, and all immigrants to America, should reject. Putting corporations and real estate interests in charge of deciding which

artists can sell art and where they can do it is to put them in charge of free speech. Will the US Supreme and Federal Courts decide free speech matters or will McDonalds and the local real estate office that run the BID decide? The outcome will be decided with Intro # 846. For the sake of every freedom loving person in NYC, vote NO on this dangerous law. FINAL NOTE: ARTIST supports the rights of all vendors, regardless of what they sell, where they are from, how they got here or whether they are licensed or not. We have no problem whatsoever with the vendors of Sunset Park. Our issue is wholly with the BID exploiting these vendors in order to destroy vending. (SEE: for a detailed analysis of each of more than 20 vending Intros now before the City Council. Most are as bad as this one. The BIDs wrote them all.) WHY DOES THE NY CITY COUNCIL HATE FREE SPEECH? STOP HARASSING ARTISTS!