By Alex Christodoulides
The controversy over street vendors that roiled Forest Hills starting last summer has reached the ears of the City Council's Consumer Affairs Committee and may soon come to a vote before the full Council.
City Councilwoman Melinda Katz's (D-Forest Hills) office said last week that the committee was weighing a bill she had authored last year after community outcry about food vendors setting up carts on Continental Avenue and other commercial thoroughfares in the area.
Since vendors of non-food items are already restricted from putting up tables or carts on Forest Hills' streets, the bill goes one step further and explicitly prohibits food cart vendors in Katz's district.
“While the Council finds that mobile food vendors contribute to Queens' reputation as a destination for visitors seeking edibles from around the world, the Council also finds that the concentration of vendors in certain areas of Queens with heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic creates a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of the public,” the text of the bill says.
The bill amends the existing law to prohibit food vendors at all times from the prime sidewalk real estate between Queens Boulevard and Austin Street on 69th, 70th, 71st and 72nd roads; 70th, 71st (Continental) and 72nd avenues; Ascan Avenue; and both Queens Boulevard and Austin Street between 69th Road and Ascan Avenue. These being prime retail space for storefront businesses, the area also draws a great deal of foot and vehicular traffic.
If the bill passes in the committee, the full Council could vote on it as soon as the next stated meeting, Katz's office said.
The debate over whether the vendors should be allowed in Forest Hills was ignited last summer, shortly after the first carts appeared. Local merchant groups complaining that they were losing business because of carts parked near their doors were pitted against residents and commuters, who stopped to buy an inexpensive plate of grilled chicken from the halal vendor or a banana for breakfast from the fruit cart.
Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.