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Harlem Mobile Fashion Boutique Causes Worry on Upper East Side

By Victoria Bekiempis | February 28, 2013 6:54am

UPPER EAST SIDE — A Harlem entrepreneur selling threads from the back of a converted truck has some Upper East Siders fearing she'll start a trend that will drive straight into their neighborhood.

Nneka Green-Ingram, a city bus driver, doubles as a street stylist by selling fashion from her mobile boutique Celebrities on 125th Street.

But her business savvy has some on the Upper East Side worried that she'll start a trend that will see mobile shops invading their neighborhood streets.

At a Community Board 8 vendor task force meeting this week, chairwoman Michele Birnbaum and others referred to a DNAinfo.com New York story about Nneka Green-Ingram, proprietor of Celebrities.

Green-Ingram parks the vehicle on West 125th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard from Thursdays through Saturdays.

Birnbaum praised Green-Ingram for her entrepreneurship, but worried that her success might set a precedent that will lead to truck vendors parking on the streets of the Upper East Side.

"She's smart. She's enterprising. She's adorable. She's clever," Birnbaum said of Green-Ingram. "However, is this where we're going?"

Birnbaum wasn't alone with her concerns.

"It's like the Wild West," said Teri Slater, a community board member, of the overall vendor problem in the area.

These concerns come several months after the same task force took on parked marketing vans, arguing that they illegally set up shop in metered parking spots. Now, they claim the street vendors flout the law and detract from quality of life in the neighborhood.

But Green-Ingram countered she wasn't doing anything wrong — and said she had received accolades from Harlem law enforcement agents for being so by-the-book.

"We served the country," Green-Ingram, who was able to get a vendor's license because of her service in the Navy, said. "Why not allow us to run our own businesses? I don't think that's too much to ask."

Green-Ingram added that a police officer once stopped by her truck, demanding to see her vendor's and driver's license as well as proof of incorporation — and that she passed muster.

"He was like, 'I'm very, very proud of you. A lot of people try to come out and do this and they don't have the licenses,'" she said.

Still, Birnbaum said the truck was somehow breaking the law.

"Even if she has a vendor's license of some sort, she's still not compliant, " Birnbaum said Wednesday in a phone interview. "She's not supposed to be parked in the same place all day anyway."

Birnbaum has reached out to agencies governing street vending — sending them the DNAinfo.com article and pictures about Celebrities — and was told to contact the police for enforcement if she thought any laws were broken, she said.

But she and others at the meeting were concerned that the NYPD wouldn't be a strong deterrent.

"She's publicizing and advertising her business," Birnbaum said. "That's not the mark of an intimidated person."

And Birnbaum added that there's proof that the truck-selling is catching on — a food truck for dogs was spotted in the neighborhood recently.

"Because why shouldn't dogs have a snack?" she quipped.

Other committee members present Tuesday agreed with these concerns.

"It's out of hand," said CB8 Member Elaine Walsh.