Dec. 30, 2013 By Christian Murray
Several street vendors have been kicked out of Sunnyside in recent weeks after being found to be violating health department codes and for posing a risk to public safety, officials said.
The large fruit stand and long-serving Halal cart have both disappeared from under the 46th Street train station in recent times as Community Board 2 has been working with the police in getting rid of unlawful street vendors.
Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said many people have been complaining about the cleanliness of the street vendors and are supportive of the board’s efforts. Furthermore, he said, it was not fair that local restaurant owners are subject to vigorous inspections from the health department, yet there was very little oversight of street vendors.
Conley said the fruit stand owner was first cited for storing his fruits and vegetables on the ground, a violation of the health code. He said there are pigeons and rats under the 46th Street station and that such a practice was particularly unsanitary.
The owner of the fruit stand could not be reached for comment.
Additionally, Conley said, the owner of the Halal cart parked his cart under the 46th Street station 24 hours per day. He said the owner is supposed to take the cart away once a day to restock it. “We saw him refilling his supplies from a car on a hot day,” Conley said. “It’s a question of health.”
The owner of the cart could not be reached for comment.
But the vendors are likely to be gone long term because the community board and the police deem them a threat to public safety—since the area below the station was beginning to get cluttered.
If the 7 train had to be evacuated, Conley said, there would be a lot of people crammed into the space below the station as they tried to exit. “They would have to navigate through the vendors…and at one point there were 4 or 5 vendors there,” Conley said. “This is an issue of public safety.”
Furthermore, the New York City administrative code prohibits vendors from operating within ten feet of any driveway, any subway entrance or exit, or any crosswalk at any intersection.
Meanwhile, the vendors on 46th Street between Queens Blvd and Greenpoint Ave. were cleared out because they lacked vendor licenses, Conley said. There were vendors selling bootlegged items, to a woman selling shaved ice. “They had no right to be there,” Conley said.
Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District has supported Community Board 2’s efforts from the start. In a statement, Rachel Thieme, the executive director of the BID, said: “Our organization represents brick and mortar businesses in Sunnyside, and we are supportive of the vendor enforcement at the 46th Street pedestrian plaza. We appreciate the work of the 108th precinct and Community Board 2 to enforce the law.”
Captain Brian Hennessy, the commander of the 108 police precinct, could not be reached for comment.
The community board has been targeting unlawful vendors for years.
A fruit vendor located next to the 52nd Street station was thrown out some time ago after being cited for violating health department rules. The vendor was storing food on the side walk, which was covered with pigeon excrement.
Conley said that the health department seized all his merchandise and threw it into a garbage truck. He said it happened twice before the vendor got the message.
“It was mind boggling how people would buy from him given the pigeons and the rats in the area,” Conley said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, issued a statement on the role of street vendors in the neighborhood:
“While some people love them and some people hate them, clearly there is a place for street vendors. Food carts, pretzel stands, and hotdog vendors have always been ubiquitous in New York City.”
“The city has the obligation however to make sure that all laws and health codes are followed. If vendors are breaking the rules or endangering public safety, they should be fined and removed if deemed a danger.”