Farmers market vendors push for revised parking regulations in Herald Square


Farmers market vendors at the Broadway French Market in Herald Square.

Farmers market vendors at the Broadway French Market in Herald Square. Photo: Justin A. Morton.

Community Board 5 has approved a proposal to revise parking regulations near the Broadway French Market in Herald Square, which hosts local vendors selling mostly organic fruits and vegetables, ethnic foods, and arts and crafts. Under the revised parking regulations, which will go into effect in the spring of 2015 pending Department of Transportation approval, only farmers market food vendors will be allowed to park in the designated area.

The 34th Street Partnership, a not-for-profit business improvement district that manages operations for Herald and Greeley Squares, presented a proposal to the Community Board 5 Transportation Committee to revise current parking regulations on Broadway between 35th and 36th streets, to be similar to those at the Union Square Greenmarket, which calls for “No Standing Except Farmers Market Vehicles, 5AM – 7PM, WED, FRI, SAT,” and free parking 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday for vendors without commercial licenses.

Vendors at the market, which is owned by the Bensidoun Group, a privately held French company, have complained about getting parking tickets since the farmers market started about two years ago. Many of the 18 vendors have experienced what they say is aggressive ticketing by NYPD Traffic Enforcement while unloading their vehicles. Under the current parking regulations, signs read: “No Standing, Except Commercial Vehicle Metered Parking – 3 Hour Limit, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Friday; Metered Parking – 6 Hour Limit, 6 p.m. – Midnight, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – Midnight, Saturday.” There are eight metered curbside parking spaces adjacent to the Broadway market. Vendors with commercial vehicles currently pay up to $30 per day for metered parking, while remaining vendors are left to fend for themselves, either to find other street parking or a garage to avoid getting ticketed.

Paul Likitsakos, owner of the Anthi’s Greek Food restaurant, located on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, has been a Broadway French Market vendor since it opened and has received 12 parking tickets over that period, costing him $1,320. His attempts to have the fines dismissed in court were denied. It takes him 15 to 20 minutes to unload his vehicle before he moves to a legal space, time that he believes the police should allow. “Police need to be considerate about us trying to do our jobs,” he said. “If they want to have a farmers market, they can’t ticket us when we are trying to unload. They can’t have it both ways.”

Some vendors have been luckier. Yona Amsalem, owner of Yona Delights, a bakery specializing in hors d’oeuvres and quiches, has avoided being ticketed this year. Instead of unloading and setting up, she unloads and immediately moves the truck into a parking garage before setting up. Last year, she paid over $1,000 in parking fines, and says that she knows some vendors who have stopped participating in the farmers market because of the ticketing.

Amanda Wigen, 34th Street Partnership operations associate, wrote in an email, “[The] 34th Street Partnership is pleased to facilitate an open-air market in Midtown Manhattan, increasing the availability of fresh produce and prepared food options for office workers, residents, and tourists in the area. Free parking for market vendors, during select hours and on days when the market is in session, would help ensure that high quality vendors continue to participate in the market.”

Tony Martin, owner of You & I Electronics on Broadway across from the farmers market, sympathizes with the vendors. “It’s a big problem,” he says, of the ticketing. He thinks the bike lanes have increased congestion, making business for him difficult, and would like to see free parking on the weekends to attract more visitors and bolster area businesses.

Traffic flow on Broadway has changed considerably since 2008, when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg spearheaded an initiative to turn the four-lane street into a two-lane street from 42nd Street to Herald Square, making way for pedestrian plazas and a bike lane. Jeanne Tsey, a Broadway French Market shopper who was not a Bloomberg supporter, still praises the eco-friendly development he spearheaded in the area. “I like what Michael Bloomberg did over here,” she says. “I like the organic, fresh produce. I come here every week.” Vanessa Hegler, a Macy’s employee in Herald Square who has been shopping at the farmers market since last year, thinks the traffic flow in the area is fine. “I come here to eat lunch with my friends all the time,” she says. “They have spinach pie and sugar-free muffins.”