WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A local politician wants to bring a pair of new plazas to Northern Manhattan to accommodate the growing number of vendors on city streets, following a series of arrests of illegal vendors last week.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said he has been working with the Department of Transportation to create the new plazas either on 183rd Street between St. Nicholas and Wadsworth avenues, or on 182nd Street between Audubon and St. Nicholas avenues. The proposed location farther uptown is at the corner of 207th Street and Post Avenue.
The goal is to add two modern town squares similar to the Plaza de Las Americas on 175th Street and Wadsworth Avenue, Rodriguez said. That plaza officially opened to the public in November, more than two decades after merchants in that location first arrived to hawk their wares.
The councilman said he's also working with the DOT to create temporary vending sites until the final locations are selected.
“It’s a hot potato,” Rodriguez said of the issue during Community Board 12 general meeting Tuesday night. He added that the community should not only support local small businesses, but also the "thousands of working class — the vendors in the streets — that make a living and support their families."
In addition to working with the DOT, Rodriguez said he also met with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to brainstorm new ideas and reform regarding street vendors, although there are no current bills proposed to address the issue.
"I believe there could be reform," Rodriguez said. "207th Street is not sustainable. We need to do something very quick."
The DOT did not return requests for comment.
Police announced that several vendors were arrested last week for selling counterfeit products without a license, a move CB12 District Manager Ebenezer Smith said was an example of enforcement "made to bring balance" between legal and illegal vendors.
Smith, who added that he expects "a very difficult summer" with illegal vendors, said he was working with Rodriguez, several city agencies and the local precincts to create a community task force to address the issue.