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Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Yanping Nora Soong
A street vendor operates a fruit stand in downtown Flushing

A Flushing-based lawmaker wants the city to limit vendors that, he says, are causing traffic and pollution on the neighborhood’s walkways.

Councilman Peter Koo has introduced a bill that would prohibit all sidewalk obstructions in downtown Flushing. It would also limit stoop line stands in certain areas of the neighborhood.

Sidewalks on Main Street, which is the second-busiest pedestrian corridor in the entire city, were widened up to nine feet in certain portions as part of a $7.8 million infrastructure project completed in late 2017. While the project was meant to relieve overcrowding, Koo says the extra space has given rise to street vendors operating illegally and selling wares including fruits and vegetables, counterfeit handbags, cellphones and health insurance.

Under the change, stoop line stands would be prohibited at locations in the heart of downtown Flushing, including Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Sanford Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue between College Point Boulevard and Union Street and 40th Road between Prince and Main Streets.

General and food vending would also be prohibited in the area bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, Union Street to the east, Sanford Avenue to the south and College Point Boulevard to the west.

The impacted area

The impacted area

“We are overrun with sidewalk obstructions, and our sidewalks have become an obstacle course,” the councilman said. “As a small business owner, I have no objection to people innovating in order to turn a profit, but I wholeheartedly object to those who do so at the expense of their community.”

Koo’s second bill would prohibit the use of under-fired char broilers in mobile food vending units throughout the city.

According to recent testimony by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one food vendor grilling meat for a day emits the same amount of particulate pollution as a diesel truck driving 3,500 miles. The bill would not restrict flattop grills.

“The under-fired char broilers used by street vendors are responsible for a significant amount of particulate matter in our air,” Koo said. “Not only are the grillers breathing this in, but it also impacts nearby residents, businesses and others who must endure the clouds of smoke blowing in their windows and hanging over the street. Making these vendors more environmentally safe will reduce particulate matter and significantly improve the air quality of our city.”

Each bill has been referred to the Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing.

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