There is no time to beat around the bush!
The city on Wednesday gave sidewalk vendors who do business in front of Brooklyn Law School just 10 days to fight the institution’s plan to install large planters where they currently peddle their wares. Now the hawkers must mount a grass-roots opposition or their small businesses could soon be pushing up daisies.
“We want some type of resolution, we need to survive,” said Kathy Ewa, who sells jackets and hats in front of the school. “We need to pay our rents, we need to pay our mortgages.”
The vendors say they only learned of the school’s plan to stick 10 giant flower pots — each spanning a little more than nine square feet and standing 5-feet-9 — along Joralemon Street and Boerum Place in November, after the local community board endorsed the plan and reporters contacted them for comment.
Then at the Department of Transportation’s public hearing on the application on Feb. 3 — which they also heard about through the grapevine — the traders learned they have until Feb. 13 to collect comments from local bigwigs opposing the proposal if they want to convince the city to nip it in the bud.
Officials said they couldn’t see a problem with the shrubbery, however, as the board, Borough President Adams, and other elected officials had already given it their support.
But the Beep — who the vendors say often waves and smiles on his way to nearby Borough Hall — says he only offered his “verbal support” for a plan to “beautify Downtown” and wasn’t party to any discussions about how it would impact his neighbors, which he would now like to rectify.
“Any unintended negative impact on licensed vendors is something that we should seek to resolve,” he said. “I am open to help convene such a dialogue.”
And the department refused to say which other electeds offered their support for the plan. A spokesman for Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) said he, at least, was unaware of the proposal and hasn’t given his endorsement.
During its vote, a member of Community Board 2’s transportation committee did ask a Brooklyn Law spokesperson whether the planters were an attempt to push the vendors out, but the rep assured them it was “merely an attempt to beautify the space,” according to the minutes. The sidewalk stalls did not come up during the general meeting when the full board voted.
The traders — many of whom have been hawking their wares in the area for years — say they are friendly with the police, judges, and lawyers who work nearby and patronize their stands, and were crushed to hear local residents had effectively voted to kick them to the curb.
“They’ve been having us here for all these years and now they’re going to replace us with plants,” said Mama Moj, who sells jewelry.
The vendors’ licenses aren’t tied to the location, but Ewa said it would be hard to relocate anywhere nearby as competition for prime Downtown pavement is fierce.
“For the people who are there, it’s like their turf — even if it’s only 20 square feet,“ she said. “You have to go in there and fight them for it, but who has time to fight?”
A transportation rep said there are no hard guidelines on what kind of comments the vendors will need to amass over the next week to convince the city to prune the proposal, but that endorsements from influential locals will carry more weight.
If the vendors aren’t successful, the school will be allowed to keep the planters there for 10 years, in exchange for paying the city $250 a year.
Brooklyn Law School did not return request for comment by press time.