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Appeals Court Reverses Ban on Ticket-Hawkers Outside Empire State Building

By Jill Colvin | February 23, 2012 4:30pm
A worker advertises the NY Skyride outside the Empire State Building.
A worker advertises the NY Skyride outside the Empire State Building.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — An appeals court has overturned a ruling barring tickets-sellers from hawking tickets outside the Empire State Building after months of clashes between the vendors and police, which led to numerous summonses and arrests.

A panel of judges at the Appeals Division of state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that aggressive ticket-hawkers for the Empire State Building’s virtual reality NY Skyride can continue selling tickets without vending licenses because tickets don’t technically qualify as "goods or services."

An earlier judge had ruled the vendors had to be licensed before they could sell tickets on the street.

The hawkers had become a major nuisance for neighbors and office workers, who said the vendors blocked pedestrian traffic, swarmed unsuspecting groups of tourists and drove locals nuts with their constant "Going Up?" pitch.

Elizabeth Freedman, senior counsel in the appeals division in the city’s Law Department said she was "disappointed" by the ruling, which overturns a September decision by Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills that reversed a decades-old interpretation of the city’s vending rules.

Asked if the city planned to appeal the ruling, she said, "we are analyzing it now and weighing our legal options."

Randy Mastro, a spokesman for Skyline and a former deputy mayor, commended the ruling for protecting what he described as "a time-honored tradition in New York City" that the company relies on to survive.

"The city inexplicably targeted Skyline," said Mastro, who said the showdown between the city and the ride resulted in "many, many" summonses and more than half a dozen arrests.

"It’s been a long time coming, but justice has been done," he said. "The court made crystal clear that the local general vending law does not apply."

Skyline, the company the managers NY Skyride, sued the city after police began arresting and ticketing its hawkers during a series of street sweeps last spring.

Skyride has been leasing its 18,000-square-foot space in the Empire State Building since 1993.