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New Year’s Leave! City To Kick Vendors Off Bridges Tomorrow

The vendors will be cleared off of the historic span on Wednesday.

12:00 AM EST on January 2, 2024

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

The Brooklyn Bridge can get packed with visitors and vendors, as seen here on Dec. 29.

They're throwing them off the bridge! 

Street vendors will be completely banned from city bridges like the crowded Brooklyn Bridge starting on Jan. 3, city officials revealed late last week. 

Sellers hawking goods like $1 waters, hot dogs, and Big Apple-themed tchotchkes on the bridge’s busy walkway will have to pack up by Tuesday at midnight, according to City Hall. 

The Adams administration first proposed its blanket vending ban three months ago, citing a surge in people setting up shop on the 140-year-old monument in recent years, and the Department of Transportation revealed to the New York Post on Friday that the regulation will kick in with less than a week to go, which the mayor described to the tabloid as a "fair warning." 

“Tourists and New Yorkers alike deserve to walk across it and enjoy its beauty without being packed together like sardines or risking their safety,” Hizzoner said in a statement. “We’re not going to allow disorder to continue in these cherished spaces.” 

Vendors and their advocates were shocked by the news, accusing officials of pulling the rug out from under them. 

“Ban? Oh shit. That’s really bad news, because I depend on it for my everyday existence,” said Patrick Dellamore, who was selling shirts and hoodies near the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge last week, as thousands of tourists crowded onto the tight path. 

Brooklyn Bridge vendor Patrick Dellamore was shocked by the incoming ban. Photo: Kevin Duggan

City Hall claimed it would distribute fliers about the ban, but none of the vendors Streetsblog spoke to on Friday had received any information about the impending prohibition of their business.

After former Mayor Bill de Blasio made more room for pedestrians on the boardwalk by moving cyclists into a dedicated bike path in the roadway in 2021, the Brooklyn Bridge’s numbers doubled to around 34,000 people crossing a day, according to DOT figures.

On Friday, the jam on the bridge's walkway got so bad that pedestrians hopped the fence and spilled onto the bike lane.

The bridge often became mobbed with tourists even before the dedicated bike lanes, and transportation officials back in 2016 planned to study giving more space to people by widening the deck, but that review hasn’t started nearly eight years later.

Increasingly brazen entrepreneurs have followed the more recent influx of visitors swarming the span, offering 360-degree video shootings for sale against the backdrop of “Empire State of Mind,” along with freshly mixed cocktails, and even a photo op with a live snake!

The crowds have become safety hazard on the pathway that narrows to a mere five feet at some sections, according to DOT.

The situation threatens fire safety, overcrowding, national security, and even the bridge’s stability, officials claim — even though DOT has shown no concern for the 116,000 motor vehicles using the 1883 bridge every day. 

The upcoming ban will take effect nearly a year after Mayor Adams ordered police to clear the bridge of vendors, regardless of whether or not they had a legal permit to sell.

DOT unveiled in October its proposed prohibition, which gained widespread public support from politicians, residents, and tour guides at a public hearing last month, but vendors begged for some sort of compromise. 

A bill by Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer aimed to strike a balance by still allowing vendors on parts of the bridge that are at least 16 feet wide and not on the approaches, while keeping 20 feet of space between each other.

That could have offered a middle ground, said Mohamed Attia, a former vendor who is now the managing director of the Urban Justice Center's Street Vendor Project.

"Street vendors have been operating on Brooklyn Bridge for years and have always added value and joy to tourists visiting the bridge," Attia said. "Now, with no safety net to rely on, and brutal cold months approaching, vendors will struggle to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads until they find other viable locations."

Many sellers on the bridge are veterans or have a disability, which allows them easier access to the hard-to-get outdoor vending permits, and one longtime open-air marketeer said the city should just remove those without proper paperwork. 

“The problem is these guys setting up a table without no license,” said Allen Vixton. “The cops come, they shut down, then they come back again.”

Vendor Allen Vixton said the city should still let veterans and people with disabilities sell on the bridge. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Police sweep the bridge of paperless vendors once a day, according to Vixton, but the sellers just pack up then spread out again once cops are gone. 

“As soon as they know the cops come, then they break down their stuff, and then as soon as they leave, boom,” the Bronxite said. “When they’re gone, they put their merchandise on the other side of the fence. They’re so greedy.”

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