Monday, August 12, 2013
Alcohol & food sold openly in parks by illegal vendors
From A Walk in the Park:
The city is losing millions of dollars in revenue annually from illegal vendors while the Bloomberg administration does little to combat the problem.
In Flushing Meadows Park it's a wild wild west, cat and mouse game as dozens of illegal vendors work openly in the 900 acre park. Women pushing "invisible babies" do brisk business selling alcohol from covered baby carriages, beer is hidden in sewers to avoid detection, while others sell food, ice cream, drinks and snacks and toys.
Licensed vendors say they can not compete. In Flushing Meadows Park alone ice cream truck concessionaires pay the Parks Department up to $ 32,000 annually in addition to Heath Department fees, liability Insurance, and in the case of Mr. Softee - a $ 3000 annual franchise fee, on top of the $ 85,000 - $ 120,000 required to purchase the trucks.
Mean while illegal vendors sell from make-shift home made push carts, baby carriages and bicycles that by-pass permits and insurance.
Legal vendors also note that the Parks Department sets the prices they are allowed to charge while unlicensed ones are not under the same constraints. Some legal ones have been forced to lower prices in order to try and compete.
Critics also point out that park patrons being allowed access to unlimited amounts of alcohal is a concern for getting behind wheel to drive home.
Illegal vendors take away revenue not only from owners but also from the workers who's salaries are often based on a percentage of what they sell.
Some vendors say they are under the constant threat of violence from illegal vendors while the city does little to protect them. They say you are lucky if law enforcement occasionally conduct sweeps and confiscate illegal items but nothing is constant and certainly there is not a permanent uniform presence needed to deter this activity.
Legal vendors say they constantly complain to the Parks Department's revenue division - who oversee the agency's vast array of concessionaires but their concerns fall on deaf ears. They complain that the city refuses to protect them while being told there's nothing they can do because they don't have the resources to address the issues.
There is not a single dedicated Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officer permanently assigned to patrol 900 acres of FMCP, the largest park in Queens.
I'm sure Holly Leicht of New Yorkers for Parks and Council Member Julissa Ferreras will suggest another conservancy to take care of this...
But seriously folks, it's become much easier and more profitable to do as you please rather than follow the rules in this town. What is the fine for illegal vending even if you were unfortunate enough to get caught?
I urge you to click the link at the top of this post and read the whole story. Illegal gambling, hiding booze in storm drains, legal vendors being harassed and told to vacate the park during the US Open - when they would likely make the most money. It's simply amazing what goes on in our parks. And no one does a damn thing about it.