An officer stands guard on the Brooklyn Bridge pathway on the Manhattan approach on Jan. 3, 2024.
Photo by Dean Moses
The city’s ban on vendors along the Brooklyn Bridge walkway on the Manhattan side took effect Wednesday without major incident.
Gone were the many item-filled tables that had lined the path just a day earlier after the city decreed their removal last week in an effort to ease the foot traffic congestion on the picturesque bridge that tens of thousands of New Yorkers and tourists cross every day.
Police officers were out in force on Jan. 3, the first day of the vending ban on the bridge, to make sure no one set up shop. While there wasn’t much resistance, former vendors remained steamed about their removal.
Vendor Otway Kendall: “Everybody has bills to pay. The money helped me. At home I have a wife, I got cats upstairs,” said vendor Otway Kendall, who sold on the bridge and lives in Staten Island. “Stuff is not cheap.”
Despite fuming over the the removal, Kendall has resigned himself to the fact he has lost his spot: “You can’t fight city hall. We will find a spot somewhere.”
Meanwhile, the Street Vendors Project — a nonprofit representing many hawkers across the city, including the now-deposed Brooklyn Bridge vendors — are scrambling to help the vendors make a quick pivot and keep their own businesses on a paying basis.
“I think what they’re most concerned about right now is… they want an immediate solution to their situation on income, because they can’t wait for legislation to pass in a couple of months when their bills are still gonna continue to pile up,” said Eric Nava, Street Vendors Project president. “And I think that this is very [important for] the city to make a decision like that is gonna impact dozens and dozens of families overnight.”
Some of the vendors have already gone to the Department of Transportation’s headquarters to seek another location to set up, while others have filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban, according to another Street Vendor Project member, Rafi Islam.
The Adams administration, however, insists the measure aims to keep the bridge clear and reduce any hazards to both pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Tourists and New Yorkers alike deserve to walk across it and enjoy its beauty without being packed together like sardines or risking their safety,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “That’s why we’re giving vendors fair warning: As of Jan. 3, they won’t be allowed to set up shop on pedestrian walkways or bike lanes on our bridges — giving New Yorkers the ability to use those public spaces safely and freely. We’re not going to allow disorder to continue in these cherished spaces.”
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that pedestrian congestion on the pathway remained — because some tourists had taken photos of “no vending” signage.