Permit loophole keeps sidewalk vendors in Flushing – QNS.com

Permit loophole keeps sidewalk vendors in Flushing

By Cynthia Koons

The permits provide for “stoop-line stands,” a throwback to the days when brownstones had long stairways into the street, thereby allowing room for ground-level businesses to safely display goods on the sidewalk.

“Stoop-line stands are a vestige of a law and the city landscape from decades ago,” Liu said at a press conference he held with the City Councilman Philip Reed (D-East Harlem) in Flushing.

Reed is chairman of the City Council's Committee on Consumer Affairs. He is examining the stoop-line stand permits to see if they are relevant in areas like downtown Flushing where there are no stoops.

The heart of the downtown Flushing shopping area, which sits between the end of the No. 7 line and a Long Island Rail Road stop, is filled with pedestrians picking their way through crowded walkways during rush hour.

The sidewalk congestion in downtown has become such a high profile issue recently that the city is examining making traffic changes and widening the sidewalks to accommodate the high volume of pedestrians.

“We need to make the administrative code, the city laws work for where we have to live,” Reed said.

Many businesses are applying for stoop-line stands and renting the space out to other businesses, which is highly illegal, Reed said.

Liu said about 20 businesses in the downtown Flushing area of Roosevelt Avenue, Kissena Boulevard and Main Street have legal stoop-line stands.

“While many of the vendors have the permits for stoop-line stands, they are completely out of compliance with the law,” Liu said.

Stoop-line stands are only allowed to sell fruits, vegetables, soft drinks, tobacco, ice cream and confectionery, Reed said.

In a walking tour of Main Street, Liu pointed out that stoop-line stands that sell colorful Chinese toys and home decorations as well as jewelry, purses and newspapers.

“I'm sure many of you have walked by and seen anything from pajamas to roller skates,” Reed said. “We need to react to this.”

He said he was going to examine the permitting law. Liu said he planned to reintroduce his bill banning sidewalk displays without change on Feb. 4. The bill will forbid any business, except for those that already have existing stoop line stands permits, to place their wares in the sidewalks of downtown Flushing.

“We can't let business competition get to a point where it begins to negatively affect public safety,” Liu said.

He introduced the bill, Intro 586, to the City Council in last fall after discussing the issue with civic groups in Flushing.

“The reason I've proposed this legislation is for the safety of the pedestrians,” he said. “People are being pickpocketed right around where these stands are.”

He expects the law to be enacted in downtown Flushing by the spring.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300. Ext. 141.

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