NORTHERN MANHATTAN — Cops from the 34th Precinct are planning to crack down on unlicensed street vendors who residents say block sidewalks of Northern Manhattan while hawking their goods.
Street vendors congregate in clusters along St. Nicholas Avenue between West 180th and West 182nd streets, West 207th Street between Broadway and Sherman Avenue, and Broadway between West 169th and West 170th streets.
Precinct commanding officer Barry Buzzetti, speaking at a recent precinct council meeting, said the precinct was going to go after the vendors in an attempt to clean up the neighborhood.
"We cannot get rid of every vendor in the precinct," Buzzetti said. "But we're going to work on securing footholds in certain areas of the precinct. For St. Nicholas Avenue that will be north and south. After that we're going to go to 207th Street/Vermilyea Avenue."
Residents say vendors block off over half of a sidewalk with tables or blankets filled with food, books, watches and cell phone accessories. The problem has gotten worse over the last few years, particularly on weekends, they added.
"It's getting worse and worse," said resident Mary Anderson, who has watched as food vendors have taken over Broadway between West 169th and West 170th streets. "You can't get through a single line of people. I mean, I don't even want to go in the stores because I don't want to fight the street vendors to get through that area."
Manny Ramirez, who owns Dichter Pharmacy on Broadway north of West 207th Street, said the congestion in the area keeps people away during the weekends.
"I know plenty of people who just can't pass by there, and many people just avoid the whole area," Ramirez said.
He added that while he doesn't begrudge the vendors, he is ticked at the city for letting them block sidewalks while fining him $100 for having a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of his store that Department of Sanitation officers said obstructed the sidewalk.
"To be a merchant in the city I have to do certain things," Ramirez said. "These people are merchants of a different kind but there seems to be no monitoring of that."
The Department of Sanitation did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Buzzetti, meanwhile, said officers had been focusing on bringing other crime down over the last two years. Now, Buzzetti said the precinct was now turning its attention to the vendors, and pointed to West 181st Street as a success.
"You're always going to have someone who comes in and sets up, but for the most part 181st Street is clear," Buzzetti said.