Nosy Neighbor: Why are so many vendors allowed on the Brooklyn Bridge?

J. wrote: “How long will it take cops/transit to clear the Brooklyn Bridge of vendors again? It is really out of hand this summer, all the way up the ascent and both landings. It looks very trashy and adds litter, but also causes accidents. Some of us that use the bridge daily are not tourists!”

This of course has been a long-standing problem on the bridge — and was way worse when there was also a bike path on what is now a pedestrian-only elevated walkway. I wanted to see what was actually allowed (I have always thought the city should just create a vendor market on the east side of City Hall in that broad plaza where the breakdancers set up). The Department of Transportation is in charge of the space; the NYPD enforces.

Vendors are not allowed on the bridge! From the DOT: “Vending is restricted [which means not allowed] on the elevated pedestrian walkway and bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge. NYC DOT continues to work with partner agencies to address vending issues and maintain pedestrian flow.”

And for partnering agencies, I checked with the NYPD, and they said they are working on it, but clearly that’s not a easy or consistent effort. From the NYPD: “The 5th and 84th Precinct Commanders are aware of complaints regarding vendors along the Brooklyn Bridge and continue to work to address the condition. This year the NYPD has participated in joint operations with the Department of Sanitation, Department of Consumer And Worker Protection and FDNY to address unlicensed vendors. These operations include an educational component in addition to enforcement. Additionally, precinct officers conduct regular vendor enforcement along the bridge.”

This is just like the scene on Broadway and Canal, and seems to be just as persistent. If the market is so strong there, the city should find a way to support the vendors in a space that makes sense.



  1. One might argue that the vendors on Broadway and Canal should not be supported in ANY space.

  2. The police can see these vendors *from their windows in Police Plaza.* It’s wild how much they drop the “there’s nothing we can do” excuse after getting a budget increase when almost nothing else did (and there’s simply no chance the NYPD will be included in the mayor’s current budget-cut threats).

  3. I’m so sick of seeing these vendors trashing our streets and landmarks. All of Canal Street to the Bowery and beyond is a trash heap. And now the Brooklyn Bridge! We’re becoming a third world city. Or we already are.

    • Trashing is right. The stuff they are selling is already just future landfill, and they leave behind lots of trash, not to mention treating our streets, buildings, and even parked cars as a giant urinal. I yelled at one seller for peeing on a car, and he said, “I can do it on your building instead”.

  4. There’s more trash, empty bags that end up on the bike lane. It’s not safe when it stucks on part of your bike. I had a plastic bag stuck on my derailleur when riding and had to stop and tried to pull it out. It’s not safe to do it on a narrow bike lane where other bikers are trying to pass

  5. We just had dinner in Brooklyn & walked back over the bridge and were stunned by this junk everywhere on the bridge . Not only that but two guys were positioned at each end of the bridge with large snakes doing photos with tourists. Also counted 6 round pedestals where people could stand to buy panoramic photos of themselves. Along with the trashy counterfeit market on Canal, there is no enforcement or concern from the NYPD- what do the police really do re: quality of life issues or are they longer their job concern. If not, then who is in charge. Absolute disgrace.

  6. Lawlessness prevails in our neck of the woods. The vendors know how incompetent the city is and they are not going anywhere. This recent raid appeared to be more serious, for a brief moment I thought the time has finally come! Then I saw all the Africans and Chinese had moved across the street! And since that day the number of vendors had multiplied all along Canal Street. Some lingered with their bags waiting to pounce as soon as the cops leave.This is a nightmare that refuses to ho away. The level of incompetence is laughable, not funny.
    I think the only solution is to list and call out every single department and elected officials to hold them accountable. Fire them if they can’t do their job.

    • I’m all for contacting whoever is responsible. But who is it? I’ve contacted mayor’s office, city council, the police, spoken with those police community officers, etc. Always just excuses and “we are doing what we can”. Something seems very fishy about all this.

    • I definitely agree, R.

      But let’s be a tad more specific: the incompetence (and most likely, corruption) belong to the NYPD, who could simply post a few patrolmen on the bridge or on Canal St., and easily handle nuisance issues like this.

      But that would require getting out of their cars. And that’s simply too much to expect from a department that has 36 thousand officers and costs us nearly 6 billion dollars a year.

      • I have on many occasions seen police walk right by the illegal Canal Street junk bazaar and do nothing. Sometimes they even joke around with the sellers.

  7. NYC is now a “do whatever you want” – whenever and wherever.
    Everyone is entitled.
    No problem.

    Leave Starbucks cup and pizza box on overflowing sidewalk trash bin to topple over.
    Ride Citibike, check your phone, go wrong way, weave around pedestrians and cause grandpa to fall over.
    Bring dog to pee in flower beds and on local day care.
    Get 24/7 instant gratification food and ecommerce – and be sure to complain that something didn’t get to you fast enough.
    Sell stuff on street, block sidewalk and leave trash – and who cares if long-time small shop must pay rent and clean the sidewalk.

  8. At Canal Street, Broadway divides the 5th and 1st NYPD Precincts. They share responsibility for the area, so no one need take responsibility apparently.

  9. Please open your eyes, it is not the police, they just followed orders. It is about politics, how do you think the 100,000 people looking for asylum are going to support themselves? I wonder where they are going to find affordable housing? Who is going to pay for their health insurance?It is time to ask those questions to Ocasio-Cortez. I am latino and I understand that they are looking for a better life, but NY is a very expensive place to live. And the USA can’t afford to welcome the millions of people that wants to come to the USA. Biden wants more money to process the people walking in, not to stop the influx.Isn’t Kamala Harris in charge?

    • ‘Where are they going to go, and why NYC?’ Guess what? The United States needs a ton of new immigrants, as the population of the United States is rapidly aging and only faintly fertile. That’s not just me being full of myself, but stating a truth that should be evident to all the people commenting on how there’s too many refugees in the United States (and Canada, where I’m typing this from) now.

      Although I don’t like the street vending on the Brooklyn Bridge, I don’t mind it being on the street, in and of itself, and you don’t have to buy from them if you don’t want to.

  10. I am a disabled veteran that has the license that is required to be a street vendor in nyc I fought the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9-11 and now us as disabled vets have to still fight for a chance to vend we get humiliated pushed around and get treated like the illegal vendors we suffer because the illegal vendors infiltrate our ranks ALL GAVE SOME SOME GAVE ALL

  11. I’m also a veteran i serv the US ARMY and US NAVY and I was proud to serv My country i can ask for something because i did something for her but those that have done nothing are second class citizens to the eye of many there is a bunch of people that careless and afraid to put their Life’s like we did in the line of fire are the ones who are tryin to miss intérpretes the rules and regulation of the article 38 that rules goverment issues ,so we did it for them so they can live confortable but now they are tryin to said that we don’t deserve or belong doin vending because they live well it’s not like that Friends we Believe in the goverment of the united states and not in a few people s opinión You are few we are many and we want our benefits we still deserve they are the rules You cannot change that we belong to them to the federal Goverment.
    To the federal goverment and all bridges,túneles,and expressways are belong to the federal goverment no a local goverment as we put our Life’s for You we want are veterans deserved our rights to be honor and Respectivo should learn and be Greafull to veterans also the city should display a parking spot s for veterans as well we want and need vets parking spots for disable vets across the all boroughs if you go back to history all bridges and tunels were build with the help of military engineers, military equipment,and veterans man power without that logistic was imposible to build we being all over the places and we still on standing people i’m talking about veterans vending not other vending please don’t misundestand..