Gotham Gazette

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New Bills: Street Vending to School Parking

Artists in Lower Manhattan fear a so-called totalitarian takeover of their vending privileges. Partygoers in Queens may hail a stricter carbon monoxide detector proposal, and parents might praise a bill that allows them to disregard parking rules while picking up their kids.

All of these bills, and more, have been proposed at the City Council recently -- some may fail, some may flourish. Check out our latest round up.

Gerson Gets Back to Vending

Years ago, Councilmember Alan Gerson of Manhattan took aim at street vendors. From DVD poachers to hand bag hawkers, the councilman looked to limit the amount of merchants so that they would no longer threaten public safety by clogging city streets, he argued.

While he was unsuccessful, Gerson is looking to regulate the industry again. Some of these bills were inspired from meetings with representatives of vending groups in the city, said the councilman's spokesperson, and some are already garnering criticism.

First, Gerson would like to prohibit general vending from vehicles (Intro 767). The legislation would not apply to food vendors, but those that peddle merchandise. The legislation would impact sellers using their car hoods, trunks or roofs.

In addition he is proposing legislation (Intro 766) that would rescind a requirement for a food handler's license if a shop or establishment is only selling packaged food.

Gerson is also attempting (Intro 768) to require vendors take a written exam that tests their knowledge on the city's vending laws. This bill would apply to both general merchandise and food vendors. In attempt to avoid overcrowded sidewalks, Gerson is also proposing to require (Intro 769) vendors be more than two feet from any building or structure, including muni-meters, light posts and trees or plantings. That proposal would also apply to merchandise and food vendors.

What is likely to be his most controversial proposal, Gerson is attempting to redefine what can be classified as merchandise that falls within the first amendment -- sales that cannot be restricted or prohibited. Previously, the council member attempted to limit that to two-dimensional pieces, meaning paintings, pamphlets or leaflets.

That proposal hit significant roadblocks from artists and civil libertarians. Now, the councilman is (Intro 770) attempting to define protected material again. Under the legislation, vendors would not need to apply for a permit if the material was "predominantly expressive in nature and whose utility is of secondary importance, including, but not limited to, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other visual art, whether original or not."

While it is a more expansive take than his previous attempts, some in the vending and art community continue to oppose any restriction.

In The Villager, Kurt Brokaw of the New School wrote: "This new twist is Gerson’s three-dimensional prohibition, just expressed more subtly. Gerson has to be aware that in any court challenge, the concept of 'found art' is well established as a primary expressive medium, and he will lose in a New York minute."

So far, none of these bills have received a hearing nor have they garnered a significant amount of co-sponsors.

Police Disclosure

Several council members are looking for a little more disclosure at the Police Department, from domestic violence statistics to reporting requirements for auxiliary police.

Councilmember David Weprin introduced legislation (Intro 788) that requires the department submit quarterly reports on officer assignments, specifying particular units, and what type of equipment, from bullet proof vests to radios, had been issued to auxiliary officers. Following the death of two auxiliary police officers last year, Weprin announced a 10-point plan to improve public safety. Part of that plan was providing officers equipment, like bulletproof vests.

Elsewhere, Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito introduced legislation (Intro 774) that requires the department release domestic violence statistics on its Web site, including the number of murders, assaults and felonies related to domestic violence.

Councilmember Jimmy Vacca also proposed a bill (Intro 775) requiring the department report the number of traffic violations for trucks both citywide and per council district on a quarterly basis.

Detector the Halls

Last spring, 42 people, including the bride, were hospitalized from exposure to carbon monoxide at a wedding at a dining hall in Queens.

No one noticed the odorless gas wafting about the room until the mother of the groom collapsed on the dance floor. Carbon monoxide detectors were not installed at the facility.

A bill introduced by Councilmember Thomas White of Queens (Intro 789) would require detectors in certain public spaces, including restaurants and performing arts centers. Currently, only public buildings and residences require detectors.

"We didn’t realize you didn’t have to have a carbon monoxide detector," said White's head legislative aide, Josh Wojehowski. He also called the bill a "no-brainer."

Parking Bikes in Garages

Councilmember Oliver Koppell introduced legislation (Intro 780) that would require any parking garage or lot with 50 spaces or more also provide parking for bikes. One bike spot would have to be provided for every 10 motor vehicle spots.

School Parking Regulations

Councilmember John Liu introduced legislation (Intro 785) that suspends parking rules between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. as well as 2:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. on streets adjacent to public schools. Under the bill, the rules would also be suspended on roads adjacent to private schools that service the fifth grade or below.

Hotel Fees

Councilmember Letitia James introduced legislation (Intro 772) that would require hotels include extra fees, such as extra costs for electricity, in their advertisements along with their rates.  

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