EAST SIDE ENCOUNTERS
by arlene kayatt
No judgment, just interest — Street vendor selling watches on busy Upper East Side corner. Woman passing by looks at watches and wants three. Vendor removes them from their cardboard stands. Woman goes to her purse. Sees she has nothing smaller than a hundred-dollar bill. Asks vendor if he has change. “Oh wait, I do,” came a voice from the woman holding a cardboard sign seeking donations as she sat on the sidewalk immediately opposite the vendor and his watches. She sounded like a talking ATM. Or the start of a start-up called “Partners in Change.” Could happen.
MTA bus driver has a good union — Riders were absolutely flabbergasted when the bus driver on the M15 route going north on First Avenue announced to the passengers that he wouldn’t be leaving the bus stop for another five minutes because he was “ahead of schedule.” Ahead of schedule? Is he kidding? What schedule? The one posted at the bus stop where the bus is halted? If that’s the one, then he’s about 12 hours and 20 buses behind schedule. If he’s going according to an app, he’s at least 2 hours and who knows how many buses behind. Manhattan’s MTA bus service is a 24/7 nightmare. Unabated. Unabashed. Unbelievable. Without consequence. Or impunity. Deplorable.
More MTA — I’m just marveling at the newly opened “headquarters” for the bus facilitator (bus “captains” stationed at designated bus stops with whom drivers check in and out, and conduct other transit business). It’s set up in the newly opened FIKA coffee shop at 42nd and Lex. The facilitator sits front and center at the FIKA window counter facing the bus stop. All paperwork paraphernalia at the ready as well as a phone and, of course, a cup of joe. When a bus arrives at the stop, the captain goes out to meet the driver. Too bad the MTA minions don’t use their ingenuity to get the buses running on time with regularity so that the public’s transportation needs are met and riders aren’t left waiting half-hours at a time, if not more, for buses, particularly during the workday when time matters. And on weekends when the ridership is going strong throughout the day.
Re-framed — For several years a picture-framing shop occupied a commercial space on Third Avenue between 90/91st Streets. Within the last year, they moved out and the storefront was empty. In the last few weeks, another picture-framing tenant moved into the space. Don’t know if it’s the same owner. Doesn’t matter. Glad to see commercial occupancy picking up. A concern, however, is that the city’s expansion of food cart permits will invite the expansion of not only food carts but other types of street vending. Luckily, picture framing doesn’t lend itself to selling from carts but other arts and crafts may. In this climate of overreach as far as street vending, small businesses will continue to pay high, if not exorbitant, rents while vendors will pay for the privilege of a street space for the price of a permit and other costs — NOTHING compared to the cost of rent and running a small business. Some small businesses on the UES pay monthly rents in the range of $10,000. While elected and public officials give lip service to the plight and loss of small businesses and profess sympathy for them, they do nothing to lighten the burden. Instead, they undermine small businesses by encouraging the expansion of street vending. Today food carts; tomorrow who knows. The actions, advocacy and legislative intent of our representatives does not bode well for small business. Expansion of street vending is antithetical to the survival of small businesses, their owners, vendors, employees and the public. Electeds and public officials should take heed and reorder their priorities and serve the economic and public safety interests of all of their constituents. City sidewalks are now used and occupied by pedestrians, strollers, skateboards, outdoor cafes, fruit vendors, hotdog, and other food and coffee carts. Expanding use of street space is not safe. And not in the public interest.
And finally — She was there. Cindy Adams of New York Post fame was on the inside at the Hilton with President-elect Trump on election night. Both East Siders, they know each other for more than 40 years and live within blocks of each other. He on Fifth and 57th. She on Park Avenue a block north. Given the electorate’s penchant for New Yorkers and the audacity of Trump, could be that he creates a cabinet post for her — like Secretary of Gosspel — to serve the nosy needs of the spiritual, secular and religious communities? And to think she used to write for Our Town!