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Margaret Chin Tries Again for Crackdown on Counterfeit Handbags

By Irene Plagianos | November 5, 2013 8:16am
 Chinatown hawkers line a crowded Canal Street selling goods to shoppers and tourists. 
Chinatown hawkers line a crowded Canal Street selling goods to shoppers and tourists. 
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

LOWER MANHATTAN — City Councilwoman Margaret Chin is taking another crack at squashing the knockoff goods trade on Canal Street, after her earlier anti-counterfeit legislation fizzled.

Chin had previously hoped to make it a crime for tourists and local shoppers to buy the fake Louis Vuitton and Coach bags that abound on the streets of Chinatown and TriBeCa. But that legislation was scuttled by critics, including Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, who worried that it would be too hard to prove bargain hunters were knowingly purchasing fakes.

Now Chin is working with her former critic to take on a different target: the buildings that store the counterfeit goods.

Chin and Vallone introduced a bill last week that would make it illegal to make, distribute or store fake designer goods in a New York City building.

“This legislation takes the city’s efforts against the counterfeit trade a step further by targeting the buildings that house the nuts and bolts of this illegal industry,” Chin said in a statement.

The bill would help tackle the rampant knockoff sales in Lower Manhattan because it would make it easier for authorities to shut down buildings that are centers of counterfeit activity, Vallone told DNAinfo New York.

“It clarifies the city’s administrative code, and it's another tool to fight against the major problem of counterfeits," Vallone said. "We asked the city what they thought could be a helpful addition to the administrative code, and targeting the buildings where these activities go on [was one idea]."

Earlier this year, the council's Public Safety Committee held a hearing on Chin's more controversial plan to cut down on counterfeit goods, which would have imposed a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail on customers who knowingly bought a fake Rolex watch or Gucci sunglasses.

Chin has argued that just the threat of punishing the buyers of counterfeit goods could be an effective deterrent, even before the law was enforced.

But critics of the bill said that targeting the buyers is not the best use of police resources. Vallone, who controls the bills that go through the Public Safety Committee, said he has "no plans to bring it to a vote" and will focus on the new bill instead.

According to Chin's office, the councilwoman hasn't given up on her earlier bill, and still plans to reintroduce it in January in hopes of bringing it to a vote this term.