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NY Post
New York Post
2 Sep 2023


NextImg:Brooklyn Bridge has become ‘disgusting flea market’ for illegal NYC vendors

It’s a bridge too far gone.

The tourist-jammed Brooklyn Bridge has become a “disgusting, mile-long souvenir shop and flea market” due to illegal vendors who clog up the famous walkway, residents rage.

There is a city proposal to ban all vendors to “enhance pedestrian safety” and “ease overcrowding on the elevated pedestrian walkways.”

A Post reporter and photographer spent an afternoon on the bridge this week observing the sea of two dozen sellers.

Legal vendors, like M.D. Rahman, who has been selling hot dogs and $1 water bottles near the entrance since 2003, and Marco Balaguer — one of multiple licensed disabled vets who sell hats and trinkets — resent the illegal hawkers who are now eating into their livelihoods.

“There’s not enough space and it’s unfair competition!” barked Balaguer. “I just paid $400 in taxes to renew my license.”

Neighborhood residents complain that illegal vendors are contributing to dangerous congestion on the Brooklyn Bridge.
J.C. Rice

Several entrepreneurs hand out cards promoting their musical ventures.

The tourist-jammed Brooklyn Bridge has become a “disgusting, mile-long souvenir shop and flea market” due to illegal vendors.
J.C. Rice

Fellow disabled vet and licensed vendor Robert Velsor gave the proposed vendor ban a thumbs-down because it is too wide-ranging.

“You have non-licensed vendors doing what they want — and we suffer,” he fumed. “If they close the bridge [to vendors], where do I go to work?”

Street vendors plying their trade around the iconic span is nothing new, but the number of stands has ballooned since the city moved bicyclists to a protected lane on the road two years ago.

One young woman selling brightly-colored hats sheepishly admitted she didn’t have a vending license.

Vendor Marco Balaguer

Marco Balaguer, one of the disabled veterans with a legal vendor’s license, resents the unlicensed competitors who dominate the bridge and eat into their take.
J.C. Rice

An illegal vendor on the Brooklyn Bridge.

This vendor on the bridge admitted to the Post that she did not have a permit to hawk her array of hats.
J.C. Rice

Dozens of street vendors swallow up approximately a third of the pedestrian walkway.

There is a city proposal to ban all vendors to “enhance pedestrian safety” and “ease overcrowding on the elevated pedestrian walkways.”
J.C. Rice

More than a few merchants — including one bartering bracelet and wristbands — would not discuss whether they had a permit.

Area residents are fed up.

“It is totally disgusting. The bridge used to be a great place to walk over. Not anymore because of all the vendors,” wrote John Fratta on Nextdoor. “Only the City of New York can screw up a nice feature for us residents. I no longer go there.”

Desiree Maumus-Hall echoed, “When did Brooklyn Bridge become one big souvenir shop?”

Manhattan resident Katie Raffa griped that the bridge is “INSANE. So dangerous. The walkway is already wayyyy too narrow for how many people are on the bridge. Moving the bike lane was a positive, now it’s just a flea market.”

Vendor issued a ticket for an illegal set-up on the bridge.

One vendor was fined for an improper set-up on the span.
J.C. Rice

Robert Velsor

Fellow disabled vet and licensed vendor Robert Velsor gave the proposed vendor ban a thumbs-down because it is too wide-ranging.
J.C. Rice

A videographer records a customer.

Multiple videographers are among those vendors taking up residence on the bridge walkway.
J.C. Rice

The de-facto flea market also limits the photo options of tourists, with the best vistas blocked by pushy vendors.

“It has essentially made an iconic NY picture site into an illegal trinket store,” said one resident.

It’s also loud, with multiple video setups every 100 yards blasting Jay-Z’s 2009 hit “Empire State of Mind” and vendor Rahman’s recorded voice in a loop announcing, “Ice cold water! One dollar for the water! One dollar for the water!”

Councilman Lincoln Restler told The Post he supports the planned DOT vendor ban. “It’s important that we provide reasonable support to vendors and create spaces for them to thrive. The Brooklyn Bridge is not that space.”

More than a few merchants -- including one bartering bracelet and wristbands -- would not discuss whether they had a permit.

More than a few merchants — including one bartering bracelet and wristbands — would not discuss whether they had a permit.
J.C. Rice

Tourists on the Brooklyn Bridge this week.

In April, dozens of new Sanitation police officers hit the streets focused on illegal street vending.
J.C. Rice

Melissa Baldjieva, 25,

Melissa Baldjieva, 25, said she “understands” some of the concerns, but “sympathizes” with all the vendors living “paycheck to paycheck” and looking to make ends meet.
J.C. Rice

Tourists check out vendors on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The de-facto flea market also limits the photo options of tourists, with the best vistas blocked by pushy vendors.
J.C. Rice

The NYPD said the 5th and 84th Precinct commanders “are aware of complaints regarding vendors along the Brooklyn Bridge and continue to work to address the condition. This year the NYPD has participated in joint operations with the Department of Sanitation, Department of Consumer And Worker Protection, and FDNY to address unlicensed vendors.”

In April, dozens of new Sanitation police officers hit the streets focused on illegal street vending.

“The situation at the Brooklyn Bridge is a complex one,” said Sanitation spokesman Vincent Gragnani, who did not address the illegal vendors, but noted that since April 1, the department had conducted 368 inspections of vendor “set-ups” and issued 126 summonses.