"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?" Jacqueline Kennedy

Friday, June 19, 2015

PMFA Reader Mail: Blocked Sidewalk In Front Of Trader Joe's On Court Street

A few days ago, a reader left the following comment on PMFA:
"How about a story on the new sidewalk fruit stands outside of Trader Joe's at 130 Court Street? Last week there was just one, but now this morning there are TWO fruit stands blocking the sidewalk and mucking up the pedestrian pathway. Combine this with the usual alternative energy folks, a food truck and the clothing/records/comic book sellers, which all makes it difficult to walk. I know our neighborhood won't ever be quiet and sleepy again, but can't we at least walk on the sidewalks? They set up the fruit stands at or before 5:30am, which is when I pass by on the way to the gym, and they take up the sidewalk with fruit boxes and their trucks unloading the fruit.

The reader subsequently called 311 and logged a complaint with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the agency responsible for giving out licenses to sidewalk vendors.
I took the photos below on Tuesday at about 1:30 pm.  The two new fruit vendors were set up right in front of the entrance to Trader Joe's and were doing a brisk business.  A jewelry vendor was also displaying his merchandise just a few feet away from them.
That particular corner is obviously highly desirable for street vendors because of the foot traffic generated by Trader Joe's. But I do agree that it is getting very difficult to walk along that stretch of sidewalk. Perhaps it would be a good idea to space the vendors and their carts out just a bit more along Court Street.

Do you have an opinion?


Duckwalk said...

I'd love to see one of the fruit vendors relocate to in front of the closed Met Food on Smith Street. At least that would be in a useful location and perform a public service. The number of vendors in front of Trader Joe's is bordering on obnoxious and it can't be good for Pacific Green's business.

Katia said...

Great suggestion. That Met Food looks so desolate. The building will probably be demo'ed soon, but in the meantime, it would help.

Anonymous said...

The relocation sounds like a wonderful idea for residents on the Smith street side. As far as foot traffic issue, it's has become increasingly circus-like. I can imagine customers with carts or those who need walking assistance have a very difficult time moving through the crowd.

Other than 311, is there another way to voice concerns for this kind of issue?

FamousGrouse said...

I have a strong suspicion that those vendors are both associated with Pacific Green. I've seen the same employees working the carts during the day, the same guys guard the fruits at night, and they load the carts in front of Pacific Green in the morning.

Of all of the problems our neighborhood faces these days--the overflowing trash cans by 10am every Saturday morning from the onslaught of tourists and shoppers, the cars that drag race down Court Street and Boerum Place, and the loss of its character by the inundation of huge chains and uninspired, ugly architecture--having to break your stride to move around fruit vendors is pretty low on the priority list. Perhaps direct your ire at Trader Joe's, which helped start the whole disintegration by causing rents to rise and forcing the mom and pops to close.

Me, I'm on the side of Pacific Green and those fruit vendors. May they offer Trader Joe's a bit of competition and/or give our more easily inconvenienced locals pause in deciding to patronize TJ's for the chocolate-covered Pfeffernüsse they seemingly can't live without.

Anonymous said...

Famous Grouse-Perhaps I'm wrong, but the trucks that unload and deliver fruit to the stands in front of TJ are not part of or related to Pacific Green. Pacific Green appears to get different trucks and deliveries in the early am. The food stands in front of TJ are opportunists, engaged in a cash business and taking money away from stores that pay rent and taxes. And they do this by claiming precious public space, ie the sidewalks, to allow people to walk and pass by. The neighborhood may be changing, and perhaps you want to support Pacific Green and other small businesses instead of larger chain stores, but using public space for private gain is not the way to go or to show neighborliness. This isn't an issue of breaking stride--that corner is fully blocked at times, with people, strollers and vendors, and you simply can't pass. At a certain point, you hit maximum space capacity and it was too crowded even before these two fruit vendors who need to go.

And, I note, TJ banana and other fruit prices are lower (but there are still longer lines inside TJs than outside the store).

Anonymous said...

N.B. Though I have never set foot in Trader Joe's and hope to never, they did not force mom and pop's to close. They forced them to either adapt or not be able to pay a market rate rent. Most choose to not adapt and just see out their leases.

lindab said...

I think that Trader Joes is the real menace to the corner. Since its opening the sidewalk has become increasingly difficult to navigate. Also, that area of Court Street is a traffic nightmare: taxis, cars double parked, etc. I think that the fruit vendors at least add a bit of summer atmosphere to the very dismal corner.

Anonymous said...

If it hasn't happened already, someone is going to get hurt on that corner. Traffic coming south onto Court from Atlantic is terrible -especially the left hand-turning traffic travelling westbound on Atlantic. They're in such a hurry to get off Atlantic ahead of oncoming traffic that they don't always look consider pedestrian traffic (which has the right of way).

FamousGrouse said...

I can assure you the fruit carts are associated with Pacific Green. If they are not, then Pacific Green's employees are taking extra shifts at the carts when they are not working at the shop.

Trader Joe's may not be the direct cause of all our woes, but they were first big chain to take advantage of the neighborhood's gentrification by driving up the cost per square foot, as cited here:


The food carts aren't the opportunists. The landlords who triple the rent suddenly on independent businesses that have been serving--and living--in the community for decades are the opportunists. Pacific Green lost their lease two years ago from a landlord that saw dollar signs and J.Crew was supposed to take their place. Mercifully that deal fell through, and Pacific Green is still there. But they are struggling, which is why they have "pop-up" carts across from TJ to capture some foot traffic and hopefully some business.

As far as adapting to change, it has nothing to do with local businesses refusing to vary their products or alter their services, and everything to do with local businesses that were unable to pay a sudden rent increase from $3k a month to $12k a month. And even large chains with pricey products don't seem to last in the neighborhood, like Mavi on Smith St. Even J. Crew decided to look elsewhere. I noticed Jacardi, the Parisian clothing store for kids is moving onto Court St. for everyone who wants to buy their toddler $75 pajamas. Good luck.

Finally, we are in agreement on your last point. The corner of Pacific and Court is one of the most dangerous corners in the neighborhood, and the traffic on Atlantic and Court, the double-parked cars, the people jaywalking, etc. have made it a nightmare for pedestrians.

Jill said...

I believe that the beginning of the end was Blockbuster, not Trader Joe's. But, that's long ago. That corner with Trader Joe's is a disaster whether you are a pedestrian or just a resident trying to drive home. As a driver: what upsets me the most is the DOUBLE PARKING. I get a ticket in my little residential street if I don't move my car by 1:01 on alternate side days, but people can put their SUVs in front of Trader Joe's at a busy intersection with no consequences. As a pedestrian: too too too too crowded. And the traffic problems caused by the double-parking make me scared to ever cross the street there! Plus the fear, watching people push their kids in strollers half-way into the intersection while on the cell phone waiting for the light to turn so they can get their freakin' Trader Joe's Cheerio's ... Shoot me now.

Anonymous said...

Famous Grouse-whether the new produce stands are independent or with Pacific Green is a distinction without a difference: we need to stop the crowd on that sidewalk and in the street. That sidewalk is not taken over by those produce stands from the time they set up at 5am until the end of the day. This is unacceptable for a public space. If it is Pacific Green, shame on them (though I see different company trucks unloading for each location), but they are certainly NOT part of TJ. Complain to 311 to get the NYC Dept of Consumer Affairs to investigate the sidewalk action and to the NYC Dept of Transportation for the traffic light and traffic enforcement.

I'm not trying to stop progress, or put the neighborhood back where it was. All I want is sidewalk traffic to move and not be assaulted by produce stands or other businesses that occupy public sidewalk space.

Anonymous said...

Dear Masters of the Universe,
Get over it or move to Westchester.

FamousGrouse said...

Anonymous, there's also the east side of the street to walk on, too. A lot less crowded. You could stop into Shelsky's for a $6 doughnut or $20 sandwich. Good luck with your crusade and enjoy your fiddling while Rome burns.

Anonymous said...

Famous Grouse and others: one brick at a time, one brick at a time.

In the meantime, NYC wisely has a special entry just for blocked sidewalks and for produce stands blocking those sidewalks (thanks Bloomberg!) so come and join the fun in filing a complaint. I promise you'll feel better :) and you'll again enjoy the public taking back of what some seeks to convert into a private space: our public lands and sidewalks



Anonymous said...

Those vendors sell very inexpensive, good produce and are a WELCOME ADDITION to the neighborhood. They have the best prices in the entire neighborhood!

Don't run them out of town.

Anonymous said...

The guy closest to trader joes is really nice. Great produce and great prices. Shortly after he set up, Pacific Green, from across the street, set up a cart next to him. Pacific green has been apparently harassing him to leave, even threatening him. The cart that Pacific Green set up did not have a license and was sighted. Not sure if they have one now. Pacific Green is obviously threatened as their fruits is triple the price and worse in quality. I was there when the cops showed up for the 4th time that day, due to complaints, which the cops insinuated it was Pacific Green calling in theses complaints. What a waste of resources. Cops also confirmed, the nice vendor has a valid permit to be there. I found this all out as I was buying strawberries from the nice vendor (closest to Trader Joes) and after the cops left. The poor vendor even showed me footage on his cell phone of what appeared to be hired goons trying to harass and threaten him to vacate the spot. Sad that Pacific Green has to resort to such behavior but I suppose I'm not so surprised as that shop seems like its on its last leg - for reasons that are fairly obvious. I will no longer be shopping at Pacific Green. Their treatment of this poor guy is terrible and competition is good for all.