In a decisive move on Saturday, October 14th, the city unveiled plans to dismantle the sprawling black market stealthily operating beneath the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is at the forefront, propelling a new rule aimed at prohibiting any “peddler, vendor, hawker, or huckster” from establishing a business on pedestrian or bike lanes of any bridge within the city, a strategy fueled by burgeoning concerns about overcrowding and security.
The Brooklyn Bridge, a tourist magnet and a crucial access point out of Lower Manhattan during emergencies, has witnessed a significant uptick in pedestrian traffic. The 140-year-old crossing saw an average of 34,000 people utilizing its wooden walkway on weekend days last fall, a stark increase compared to the fall of 2021. DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez emphasized the vital importance of ensuring that all visitors and residents can enjoy the bridge without impediments to safety and pedestrian mobility.
Recent aerial photography revealed a chaotic and bustling black market along the bridge’s 16-foot-wide pathway. At least 26 peddlers were observed, vending a bizarre array of items from miniature Statues of Liberty and pot-leaf caps to stuffed llamas, with some even daring to sell illegal cocktails or offer selfies with a live snake.
The disorder on the bridge has notably surged since the DOT relocated cyclists to a protected lane on the roadway below two years ago. Most vendors, pushing a varied mix of products, operate without a license. Rabeh Belkebir, a disabled Army veteran and a longtime licensed mobile food vendor, expressed that the rule change is long overdue, stating, “Nobody should be allowed to work on the bridge. It’s not safe if it is very crowded.”
The DOT is scheduled to hold a virtual hearing on the proposed revisions on November 15, opening a platform for discussions and feedback on the impending regulations.
As the city takes a stringent stance against the rogue vendors, the implications of this crackdown and its efficacy in curbing unauthorized vending activities across other iconic locations in the city remain to be seen.