Citing W.T.C. terror dangers, N.Y.P.D. explores moving food vendors

The N.Y.P.D. is proposing the expansion of a no vending zone for security reasons. A vendor like this one, above, would not be allowed there if the zone is expanded. Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic.

The N.Y.P.D. is proposing the expansion of the World Trade Center’s no vending zone for security reasons. A vendor like this one, above, would not be allowed there if the zone is expanded. Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | (Updated Sept. 4 with statement from Silver) The N.Y.P.D. is hoping to push food vendors further away from the World Trade Center in an effort to better protect the area from terrorists.

The current restricted zone is bounded north by Vesey St., south by Liberty St., east at Broadway and west at West. St., Leighton A. Myrie, executive officer of the World Trade Center Command, told Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee at their Wed., Sept. 2 meeting. He hopes to move it out a block, although this would require a change in state law.

“The problem for us is that two of our major vehicle screening operations…at Liberty and Trinity and also at Barclay and Washington exist outside of this secure perimeter,” he said.

Food carts are often on Trinity near the corner of Liberty St. It is this proximity to the vehicle checkpoints that the N.Y.P.D. wants to avoid.

“We’re not trying to put the food cart business out of business…we’re just trying to get them away from our operations,” he said.

Myrie said the possibility that explosives could be hidden in carts is a concern, as are backpacks.

“We don’t need to remind ourselves what happened at the Boston Marathon and now recently in Bangkok,” he said.

The proposed expansion would be one block to the north, from Vesey to Barclay St., and one block south from Liberty to Cedar St. and a strip of land at Thames St., he said.

Before Myrie could finish, Pat Moore, a community board member who lives in a building that faces Liberty, started clapping.

“Expand it more,” she said with a laugh.

Michael Ketring, another member, said Assemblymember Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly speaker, was very helpful in getting legislation through for the current zone.

Silver said in an email statement that he continues to receive complaints from local residents and workers regarding street vending in the vicinity of the site.

“Vendors block sidewalk access on those narrow and very busy streets leading to the W.T.C. Memorial and Museum and have an overall negative impact on quality of life,” said Silver, who sponsored the legislation in 2004 for the current zone. “Expanding that no-vending zone makes sense and I strongly support that effort.”

Sergeant George Giga, a community affairs officer at the W.T.C., told reporters after the presentation that “it may be difficult” getting a law passed to expand the zone.

At the meeting, it was made clear that the expanded area would be off limits for general and food vending, but not those hawking books such as “WTC Never Forget.”

“You can’t get those guys…out of it?” asked Moore, who is also the Quality of Life Committee chairperson. “I walk out my door, I have to deal with them all the time.”

It’s a First Amendment issue, said Giga.

Residents on Liberty St. have been unhappy that the booksellers have been trying to sell to tourists on their block.

The day before the meeting, one book seller on Church St. between Cortlandt and Vesey Sts. said he hasn’t been told to stay away from Liberty St., but “sometimes they push us out.”

Another, who also refused to give his name or say how much the books cost, said, “If you don’t bother them, they don’t bother you.”

At the meeting, the committee passed a resolution supporting the proposal.

Afterwards, Myrie explained how the current zone was not adequate: “It’s a full-size blanket trying to fit a queens-size mattress.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *