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86th Street nudge

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Bay Ridge residents do not take kindly to messy sidewalks.

Frequently, food vendors are the subject of complaints, with both merchants and residents expressing their desire that the streets be free of such impediments, noted Josephine Beckmann, Community Board 10’s district manager.

Along 86th Street, where there is a prohibition on general vending from Fort Hamilton Parkway to Fourth Avenue, merchants question why the food vendors −− which fall into a different category −− are permitted.

“You pay a lot of money in rent, your water rate has gone up 40 percent, and you can have a food vendor plant himself right in front of your store,” Beckmann explained. “Sure they offer better prices, but what do you say to the store owner who’s invested in the community?”

Particularly problematic, Beckmann went on, are the food vendors whose equipment can fit two people behind a grill. “This is not your typical hot dog vendor,” she stressed.

The 86th Street Business Improvement District is planning to take the food vendors head−on. Since the city’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS) turned down a request made by City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, on behalf of the merchants, that the agency should convene a commission to decide whether the strip should be a food vendor−free zone, the BID has started making plans to install street furniture −− new benches, trash cans and bike racks −− as well as plant new trees, to eliminate the areas where the vendors can set up. A key is to make sure there is less than 12 feet between where the vendors would set up their carts and the store entrances, so that regulations that require that much free space would kick in.

The plan is in accordance with a recommendation made by the commissioner of SBS “that we build out the vendors,” noted John Logue, the BID’s president, during the BID annual meeting held at Chadwick’s, 8822 Third Avenue. Since the city hasn’t taken action, he said, “We are doing what we have to do to get rid of the vendors on 86th Street. We don’t need them. They stink. They stain the sidewalks, leave their garbage behind.”

The problem is not confined to 86th Street. Recently, the arrival of a fruit vendor at Third Avenue near 72nd Street has raised the hackles of both residents and merchants, said Beckmann, who noted that the board office had “gotten a flurry of calls” about it.

“People are saying it’s huge, that it impedes the sidewalk, that it becomes sloppy when you have pieces of fruit on the sidewalk. Residents are asking about the fruit stores nearby, who are paying $4,000 a month in rent,” Beckmann said.

Victoria Hofmo, the founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy, was one of those who called. The location, she said, “is not a really good place,” because the handicappe­d−access­ible entrance at McDonald’s “takes up half the street,” and “it’s a very narrow area.”

Hofmo has numerous concerns about such vendors, including aesthetics. “Look at the storefronts. People take the time to keep them clean.” In contrast, she pointed out, the vendor at the cart has a less−tha­n−lovely stack of crates right next to him.

“It’s frustrating,” Beckmann said. “We’ve asked to see if they have a legal permit. I think the consensus is, we want no general vending in our community. For now, I think we have to take a close look at it and the regulations now on the books and see if they are complying.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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