Saturday, August 23, 2008

FREE MARKET CAPITALISM ENDS ON THE SIDEWALK

Reason - A burgeoning fruit and veggie empire threatens law and order in Clayton, California: Eleven-year-old Katie and three-year-old Sabrina Lewis have been selling spare melons, radishes, and of course, zucchini from their family garden at a roadside stand on Saturday mornings. Recently, the cops showed to bust them.

"They said traffic was being stopped and then they came up with we can't have a roadside stand and then they said it was a commercial enterprise," said Katie Lewis. . .

"They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they grow it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next," said Clayton Mayor Gregg Manning.

The mayor later called the girls and their father "self-centered."

NY Times - They can be seen all along Atlantic Avenue - urban foragers of a sort, often bedraggled and always in search of a dollar. Many of them pump gas, but that is not the only hustle along the strip.

As one regular walks on sections of Atlantic, a traffic-clogged 10-mile road that runs from the Brooklyn waterfront to the Van Wyck Expressway in western Queens, he holds a bottle of glass cleaner and offers to wash car windows. Outside an auto parts store, street mechanics replace brake pads and tune transmissions, using tools hauled around in shopping carts.

One recent evening, opposite a BP station at Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, a taxi with smoke pouring from under its hood pulled over to the sidewalk, and a burly man ran over and lifted the hot, browning hood to expose flames rising from the engine's alternator.

After patting the flames with a rag, the man poured water on the fire. With steam still rising from the engine, the man demanded of the cabby, "Where's my tip?" The driver forked over five singles, which apparently were not enough. "The engine could have exploded!" the man protested. The cabby pulled out two more singles.

But pumping gas is the most common hustle along Atlantic Avenue. Men, and often teenage boys, stand next to self-service pumps and, at a time when it can easily cost $60 to fill a tank, offer their services in exchange for pocket change, asking, "May I pump your gas for you?"

Whatever the hustle, as the road travels east and the neighborhoods along it get poorer, the number of self-styled entrepreneurs only grows. At three stops along the way, they can be seen making a living, or at least a few extra dollars, off the endless rumble of cars and trucks that pummel the avenue's rutted surface. . .

Norwood News - Berta, a 54-year-old Mexican single mother, has sold coquitos y paletas (ices and fruit popsicles) from a cart on the corner of Fordham Road and Webster Avenue for the past 10 years. "My dream is to get enough money to move back to Mexico and buy a house there," says Berta, who did not want to give her real name, in Spanish.

This year, Berta secured a vending permit with help from VAMOS Unidos (Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity), a year-old Fordham-based advocacy group that helps 230 vendors, most of whom sell food.

VAMOS Unidos' main goal is to increase the available vending permits, which the city has updated by only 1,000 in nearly 30 years. There are an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 street vendors in the city who operate without a permit. . .

Along the bustling shopping district of Fordham Road, dozens of street vendors hawking items ranging from kebab and fruit to clothes and toys line the sidewalks. "These vendors live in the neighborhood," Samanez says. "But there are no jobs, so this is the only way they can make a living." The average food vendor makes only $30 to $50 per day while working 12 to 14 hours per day, he says. . .

"Businesses draw people, but street vendors draw people away from businesses," says Ozzie Martinez, manager at Best Italian Pizza. "It becomes an annoyance. The vendors are too close to businesses, block sidewalks and are not as clean as they should be."

To complain, Martinez calls the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, which calls the police to move the vendors. The 46th, 48th and 52nd precincts patrol Fordham Road daily, in addition to surprise sweeps every couple of months, according to Lt. Charles Hammer of the 52nd Precinct.

The police and the Health Department are the main city agencies that ticket street vendors for the more than 20 different violations, which are heard at the Environmental Control Board (ECB). For repeat offenders, these violations can cost up to $1,000 each.

In fiscal year 2007, the ECB heard 25,828 vending violations, and in fiscal year 2008 it heard 21,388, according to statistics provided by ECB. Common violations include not displaying a permit, being in a bus stop, and being within 10 feet of a driveway, subway or crosswalk.

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