NYC bans street vendors from all city bridges
Photo courtesy of Gedalya AKA David Gott on Flickr
Starting Wednesday, vendors selling New York City-themed souvenirs and cheap eats will be banned from all 789 of the city’s bridges. Mayor Eric Adams last week announced new rules prohibiting vending on pedestrian walkways and bike lanes of bridges, as well as their approaches, will go into effect on January 3. Proposed this fall by the mayor, the vending ban specifically targets the overcrowded Brooklyn Bridge, which has seen a surge in both illegal vendors and pedestrians in recent years, creating safety issues on the jam-packed crossing.
The ban falls under a new rule proposed by the Department of Transportation in October that prohibits vending in pedestrian walkways and bike lanes on all city bridges and their approaches, according to Gothamist.
Easing pedestrian congestion on the Brooklyn Bridge has long been a goal of the city and the Department of Transportation. Under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s direction in 2021, the innermost car lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the iconic bridge was replaced with a two-way protected bike lane, with the existing elevated promenade designated for pedestrians only.
More than 34,000 people crossed the bridge every day on an average weekend in fall 2022, compared to 17,000 people in 2021, according to DOT.
While the average width of the bridge’s elevated pedestrian walkway is 16 feet, it narrows to just five feet in certain areas. The city says that vending on the bridge impedes the flow of pedestrians and their ability to safely enter and exit the bridge, and further amplifies the safety hazards caused by its narrow width.
Adams claimed that the city would begin distributing fliers in English, Spanish, and Chinese to vendors about the new policy instructing them to close shop. As of last Friday, many of the affected street vendors said that they hadn’t yet received any information about the impending ban on their business, according to Streetsblog.
“Tourists and New Yorkers alike deserve to walk across it and enjoy its beauty without being packed together like sardines or risking their safety,” Adams said in a statement. “We’re not going to allow disorder to continue in these cherished spaces.”
In January of 2023, Adams ordered the removal of street vendors from the Brooklyn Bridge and deployed regular police patrols to prevent merchants from setting back up, according to Streetsblog. The police typically survey the bridge once a day, but sellers close up shop and set up again once they are gone.
The new policy is part of a broader crackdown on illegal vending by the Adams administration. In November, the mayor announced plans to reopen a beloved marketplace at 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens that prospered during the pandemic and shut down last summer after complaints regarding public safety and cleanliness. The market will return with just 14 vendors, compared to the more than 80 merchants located there before it shuttered, and with more restrictive regulations.