Brooklyn Bridge
A deserted Brooklyn Bridge Kena Betancur/AFP

NEW YORK CITY — A new bill could allow street vendors who sold goods along New York City bridges to come back after being banned from doing so earlier this year.

On January 2, street vendors were banned from conducting business in the pathway of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as any of New York City's other 789 bridges. Mayor Eric Adams had called the ban "not only a sanitary issue" but a "public safety issue" as well. Since then, police officers have been stationed in pairs along the bridges to prevent street vendors from selling. Signs that read "no vending allowed" have also been displayed.

In that context, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, an Upper West Side Democrat is sponsoring a bill that would allow vendors to go back. She believes the city went too far in sweeping all vendors off the bridge and that licensed vendors should be allowed to sell on the bridge if they are adequately spaced out.

"I strongly believe that a full ban on vendors is not necessary," said Brewer during a Council oversight hearing on street vendors this week. "There are spots on bridges that are appropriate for vendors and they are identifiable and they can be enforced, particularly on [the] Brooklyn Bridge."

Concretely, the bill would allow street vendors back on the bridge but limit vending on walkways to paths that are at least 16 feet wide and require sellers to be at least 20 feet away from each other. Vendors would not be allowed to sell on bridge approaches, according to the initiative.

The pedestrian paths of the Brooklyn Bridge vary in width: some parts are 5 feet while others are 16 feet wide — excluding approaches. The bill would allow vending on the wider parts off the bridge. If passed, the bill would supersede the mayor's rule.

However, opponents argue that allowing vendors back in would threaten public safety.

"The administration opposes this bill as drafted as it would allow vending back on the pedestrian walkways of bridges," said Margaret Forgione the first deputy commissioner of the Transportation Department, at the hearing. "We made this change for public safety, and allowing vendors back would make our city less safe."

Councilman Lincoln Restler, a Democrat who represents the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights — the neighborhoods on the Brooklyn side of the bridge — said more than 300 of his constituents oppose vendors going back to the bridge. Instead, he supports an expansion of vending in a plaza in Brooklyn near the bridge.

"What I would not support is vending on the bridge itself," he said at the hearing.

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