2016-05-11 / Front Page

Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Holds Breakfast, Invites 108th Police Precinct

By Thomas Cogan
Last week, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce’s March luncheon meeting was actually held at breakfast time, at New York Style Eats, 45-02 Queens Blvd.  In the interest of the chamber’s current campaign for the preservation of small neighborhood businesses, Pat Dorfman, chamber president, invited two city officials and an officer from the 108th Police Precinct to inform attendees about rules and regulations they as owners need to know, and about out-of-store vendors and the controls that city agencies impose on them.  The latter are of distinct concern to storeowners because of the competition they exert while being free of property taxation.  Rules regarding them were explained, especially in response to questions from the audience.  

Both city officials were from the Department of Consumer Affairs.  Fred Riley began by explaining some DCA rules and regulations, including the need to display licenses prominently; issue proper receipts, containing license numbers, for customers; and proper refund policies.  A checklist, “10 Things Every Business Should Know,” meant for owners and employees, was distributed to everyone. 

First on that list is to check to see if you even need a business license.  Then, (2) post prices and payment methods; (3) post your refund policy; (4) make sure receipts are complete and correct; (5) make sure your sale ads aren’t false or misleading; (6) know the items you cannot sell; (7) know the rules for tobacco sales and signage; (8) make sure scales are accurate; (9) resolve customer complaints; and (10) handle violations and pay fines.

The first question for Riley came from Dorothy Morehead, who asked about temporary vendors, bringing up as an example Christmas sales each December.  Riley said that trees can be sold in front of shops only with the permission of the shop owners.  Sergeant Porter of the 108th Police Precinct said such sales are protected by federal religious freedom legislation.  Several issues can arise, however, including the right of convenient passage by pedestrians on sidewalks, he said.

The florist issue came up too.  Florists are having trouble enough competing with flower sales in supermarkets, but to that is added flower sales by street vendors.  Riley said military veterans might get special consideration there, but beyond that, flower vending on the streets becomes a tough proposition.  Riley said he’d check on several questions that were brought up, about such matters as street sales of flowers on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

James Middleton, of the DCA’s licensing unit, told the audience first about motor vendors, a category that includes sellers of tacos, ice cream or other foods.  He said their trucks must be in the road, never on the sidewalk, but truck size is not limited.  He spoke next about permits, saying there are a total of 5,100 of them, comprising 2,500 that allow operation anywhere in the city’s five boroughs; 1,000 of them for temporary vendors, from April to November; 1,000 green cards, which are assigned to police precincts and restricted to sale of fruits and vegetables; 200 that are borough-specific and available in lots of 50 apiece in the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, but not Manhattan. Special vendor permits applying to food carts only, with sales restricted to parks, completes the total.  (Restaurants also need special permits to appear at festival occasions that celebrate local restaurants.)  Street restrictions are determined by the City Council. 

SCC President Pat Dorfman asked who permits the glut of vendors in front of the Metropolitan Museum, in Manhattan on Fifth Avenue in the 80s.  Middleton said that is an ongoing problem but didn’t elaborate.  When she made the familiar gripe about taxpaying shopowners vs. street vendors, he mentioned a 1941 Supreme Court case involving ice cream and soda fountain shops and Good Humor trucks making sales right outside their doors, so to speak.  The court decided for the latter.

The waiting time for permits can be excruciating, Middleton said.  When Christian Murray of the online Sunnyside Post  asked about illegal vending, Middleton admitted there’s more than a little of it going on, but those illegal vendors are hard to trace, their business being necessarily cash-only.  He added that many of them might be on permit waitlists while plying their underground occupations.  The really luckless among them might be on waitlists that are closed, owing to overwhelming demand for those particular trades.  Sgt. Porter said that action taken against vendors, whether bootleg or legal but somehow wayward, entails seizure of goods.  Food, being  perishable, is delivered to the Department of Sanitation.

Next month’s meeting will be held at Bliss 46 Bistro, 43-46 46th St.  The speaker will be Adrian Bordoni, who will talk about iPhones and Smartphones.



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