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Paul and Ann Tivorsky have been selling vintage clothing, jewelry, and fine art at The Stand on the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 7th Street for three years but have noticed several unlicensed vendors started joining them.
“It’s getting out of hand over here,” Paul said. “Do you see the cops trying to do something? No. Everybody from my table down is illegal.”
The number of vendors on Bedford Avenue and several side streets varies based on the day and the weather, though Saturday and Sunday are typically the busiest. In order to operate a stand, a vendor must have a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and a tax identification card from the city. Vendors who sell books and fine art do not need this license, but those who also sell vintage clothing and collectibles do. The Tivorskys, along with sellers Phyllis Mascia and Michael Fava all have DCA licenses. Many other vendors on surrounding streets, however, do not.
“With all of the illegal vendors here, it’s very hard to make a living,” Paul said. “It’s hard to compete with people selling for 50 cents or a dollar. There are flea markets they can go to like Artists and Fleas or the one in Fort Greene, and they can sell there for whatever they want.”
According to Tivorsky and Fava, the unlicensed vendors not only compete with the legal vendors for customers of vintage wares, the unlicensed ones have no incentive for cleaning up the area they sell because they are not regulated by the city.
Fava has noticed piles of unsold clothing left overnight on Sundays on Bedford Avenue, particularly in front of the Salvation Army. The store has attracted much of the unsold garbage from vendors throughout the summer to the point where a homeless man was found sleeping in the rags.
“People drop off stuff at night at the Salvation Army out in front of the store. People tear through the bags, tear them up and take what they want,” said Fava.
At a recent meeting of the 94th Precinct Community Council, Paul Tivorsky raised the issue about unlicensed vendors. Captain Dennis Fulton said he would investigate the complaint and Paul did notice Fulton driving down Bedford Avenue two weeks ago. Both Paul and Fava remain unsatisfied with the police response to the vendors. Fava said that the police have been ineffective towards cracking down on unlicensed vendors.
“What the police need to do is come with a van and confiscate their goods until they get the message,” said Fava, who is more concerned about police enforcement than unlicensed vendors because the latter bring more traffic to Bedford Avenue. “They come, they issue summonses, and there’s no follow-up.”
Several vendors who did not have proper DCA licenses declined to speak with this paper. One vendor, who sells t-shirts all over the city said that he saw no reason to have a city license to sell clothing because his goods had political messages on them. He did have a tax identification card.
“I don’t need one because I have the constitution. That’s my permit,” the vendor said. “There should be some leeway. My stuff falls under written material. There’s just as much writing on my t-shirts as on the books over there.”
Ann Tivorsky is less worried about t-shirt sellers and books than those unlicensed vendors who sell similar vintage-style items to her own. The Tivorskys travel cross country for their goods, collecting items upon request, as well as selling paintings from local artist Paul Richards.
“We really cater to people and they ask us to find things for them,” Ann Tivorsky said. “They almost live through use because they can’t get away themselves.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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