the book seller on broadway Letters

| 02 May 2016 | 01:50

    The following letters were among those received in response to “A Face-Off On Broadway Over Books,” in the April 28 issue:

    To the Editor:

    This article on attempts to banish the street bookseller on Broadway/73 St. was too slanted and incomplete. We need more input from local residents, and some objective reporting on any rules/laws actually broken by the vendor. Your articles are usually quite informative, but not this one.

    Realtor Greg Wolper says the vendor is ‘an easy distraction from people wanting to invest in the neighborhood.’ Really? Like a Bloomingdale’s discount outlet? Invest? Meaning that he can’t raise prices on his apartments if this book seller stays there? Is it such an eyesore? Is the UWS now getting super-gentrified? There’s a larger issue here of economic diversity.

    Readers would like a few statements from area residents: Do they think there’s any validity to the objections of the realtor-critic? Is he making a mountain out of a book table molehill?

    And what does this bookseller have to do with tolerating ‘homeless people hoarding their possessions’? Nothing. That quote from the realtor gets no rebuttal.

    So couldn’t the vendor reduce his table space a bit and keep it neater? If he’s banned, he’ll be deprived of a living, then he might have to join one of those intolerable homeless, and maybe go to one of those dangerous shelters the city doesn’t properly fund? Is this a vicious cycle? Now, the book seller has a good location there near the subway, at a busy, commercial spot. He’s worked and supported himself for 31 years. Who is he hurting?

    To many, the street vendors add interest to the neighborhood, especially books on the UWS. I’ve browsed there occasionally and maybe bought one or two books over the years. And aren’t there other vendors in the area that also sell items that people need?

    True, the book tables are rather long, but they’re not ‘disturbing business and residents’. That sounds like it’s ‘trumped up’ (excuse the term) and It’s surprising that after three decades, this vendor is suddenly an issue. Other retail outlets on that corner have co-existed with the book sellers for years.

    This man is making a living, and people like convenient, low-priced books to browse through and buy. Let him just do a bit of housekeeping.

    Meredith Balk

    W 61 Street

    To the Editor:

    As a former president of the 20th Precinct Community Council, I dealt with complaints about Mr. Davidson for almost a decade. In fact, the situation on that strip was consistently among the top three issues that came up at monthly Council meetings during my tenure – and apparently still does. I would like to offer a few observations.

    Despite claims to the contrary, the vendor regulations are clear: vendors – including “First Amendment” vendors – are permitted one 8-foot-by-3-foot space, parallel to the curb, on the curb side of the sidewalk. No items may be displayed higher than 60” nor lower than 24” above the ground (i.e., nothing on the sidewalk). Mr. Davidson has about half a dozen tables, spreading out over more than half a block. He often places some of these tables perpendicular to the sidewalk. And while he keeps the tallest stacks under 60”, he also displays below the tables. As for his creating a 24/7 “encampment” (covering his tables, but leaving them overnight), as your article notes, this, too, is illegal, and is perhaps the most egregious of his violations.

    One issue that the 20th Precinct faces is that if and when they remove the encampment (which they have actually done many times), they are required to voucher every individual item (in this case, literally hundreds of books) – and Mr. Davidson simply gets them all back. And even if the NYPD had the authority to simply dispose of the items, Mr. Davidson seems to have an endless stream of books, so he simply starts over again in 24-36 hours.

    However, as he himself admits, Mr. Davidson likes to play the “race card,” claiming that he is somehow a victim of racism. And he has sued the city and the NYPD many times – and won, including monetary damages in the many thousands of dollars. This leads to a situation in which the NYPD Legal Department (which has to approve any “sting” against Mr. Davidson) does not even want to deal with him – so he essentially gets a free pass most of the time.

    Setting aside that the charge of racism is demonstrably false (the second most complained-about and summonsed book vendor is an older white gentleman on Columbus Avenue in the upper 60s), there seems only one way that the city and NYPD are likely to get rid of Mr. Davidson: tax fraud. That is, it is likely that Mr. Davidson does not pay the requisite taxes on his sales and, should he be audited, the IRS is likely to find him guilty of tax evasion. This would lead to fines – possibly significant fines which, if he could not pay, could lead to repossession of all his property – and maybe even imprisonment.

    Ultimately, however, for every person who complains about Mr. Davidson and the situation he creates, there is another who supports him, either financially, morally or both. Still, I believe that all that those who complain about Mr. Davidson – whether individuals or merchants – really want is for him to simply obey the law, and conduct his business within the existing regulations. Unfortunately, Mr. Davidson revels in his standing as a public nuisance, so he is unlikely to do so.

    Ian Alterman