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Open Streets program made permanent; Vendors banned

BY ROBERT LEDERMAN | In yet another example of our elected officials pretending to be socially conscious while instead catering to the privatization dreams of the business improvement districts and real estate interests, the City Council voted on Thursday to make the Open Streets program, launched a year ago during the pandemic, permanent.

Amid all the hoopla celebrating the program, there is no mention of how it destroys vending opportunities and gives BIDs total control over the public’s public space.

To understand how this program got the full support of the BIDs, one has to read the fine print. Below is an excerpt from the FAQs (frequently asked questions) for the Open Streets program Web site:

“Another concern Open Streets organizers often hear is that Open Streets will harm small-scale business. In reality, Open Streets programs are often a boon to local brick-and-mortar businesses. One of the defining features of Open Streets programs is that they do not feature outside vending. Unlike many street events, no one will be putting up a tent or parking a food truck in front of an existing business. Open Streets provides the opportunities for local businesses to showcase their neighborhood without outside interference.”

By “outside interference” what they mean is street artists and vendors daring to express their First Amendment freedom or economic rights in a public space that is now completely privatized by the BIDs.

The hypocrisy of the City Council members is truly astonishing. They vote to expand vending licenses with Intro #1116, then just a few weeks later pass a bill, the Open Streets program, which literally bans vendors from vast areas of the city, while giving BIDs a way to eliminate vending completely from their districts.

These are not public servants. They are puppets dancing on the strings held by the BIDs. From my perspective, every decision they make damages the city and its people.

Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics)


  1. BrooklynSandy BrooklynSandy May 1, 2021

    The BIDs ‘cover’– branding themselves as virtuous ‘saviors of small business’ betrays the reality — namely, they are a de facto protection-money racket, a literal ‘hold-up’ of small businesses who’ve no choice but to pay additional quarterly Dept of Finance levies to the City (passed down by the property owner from whom they are renting). They’ve no choice: Small Mom & Pop bodegas for example, owned by immigrant hard-working proprietors, actually are forced to pay for the very quasi-govt entity — the BID — that is screwing them out of ever being protected with a commercial lease! It’s gangsterism of the worst kind all under the mewling pretext of ‘helping small businesses.’ Who’s buying it? Certainly not the hundreds of thousands of workers who’ve lost their jobs from stores shutting down — PRE-COVID!

    It takes a 51% vote of an individual so-called BID’s ‘stakeholders’ to rescind and roll back the BID once it’s established. Property owners/ developers/ landlords could care less how their rental small business tenants are impacted — obviously they are holding all the cards. Thus the BIDS become entrenched…left to control the retail venues…and now… public spaces. They want their ‘protection money’ — and struggling artists and street vendors are considered…well…personas non grata!

    This gangster template is incestuously hooked into the reprehensible NYC Economic Development Corp. — again an umbrella arm of Big Real Estate and which needs to be exposed. Those who promulgate the public/private partnership myths that are licenses to steal — and are either corrupt or inept — need to be roundly and immediately excised from NYC government in the upcoming June primary.

    They know who they are… Do you?

    • JQ LLC JQ LLC May 3, 2021

      The EDC is going to get worse now that the Blaz hired Mr. Shake Shack to run it.

  2. Patricia Melvin Patricia Melvin May 1, 2021

    Thank you, Robert Lederman, for your article. You are a trooper and a fighter for artists’ and other vendors’ rights to ply their trade on public streets. There should be a way to compromise on such an important issue. Artists’ and other vendors’ ability to sell on the street is essential to the fabric of NYC. Personally, I would not ever have been able to pursue my dream of being an artist if I could not have sold my paintings on the street. Life is hard enough for an artist without taking away the only free and viable venue.

  3. savenycjobs savenycjobs May 1, 2021

    Why should you be surprised at BID’s being fronts for real estate? By statue the majority board members of BIDS must be property owners. Landlords who got rich with the insane bidding wars between banks and chains for prime locations on every BID. What did they do to protect the long-established mom-and-pop who built their businesses before the BIDS? NOTHING! Empty stores on every block are the hallmark of BIDS. Then at the 2018 hearing on the Jobs Survival Act to save the mom-and-pops they finally spoke up. For the first time they testified opposing the bill or any law giving rights to business owners when their leases expire. BIDS are the most anti-small business organizations in NYC.

  4. JQ LLC JQ LLC April 30, 2021

    Exactly right. The streets are being stolen by greedy real estate developers and was incessantly pushed by agents of the city like Transportation Alternatives who have infiltrated the Department of Transportation, oh sorry “Department of Transformation,” according to the recently patronage de Blasio hire to push their intolerant anti-car agenda.

    Reading this made me think of de Blasio’s horrendous Open Culture program where artists that the city government and more likely the BID’s like can get permits to perform.

    Knowing New York City, this will not end well for anyone.

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