Peddlers flock to New York City for ‘coniferous tree’ season

13 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Peddlers flock to New York City for ‘coniferous tree’ season.

NEW YORK — In New York City, even sidewalk space is coveted real estate. Street vendors sometimes spend a fortune or languish for years on waiting lists to acquire one of the permits that allow them to sell goods in tightly regulated locations. But once a year, there’s an exception, laid out in an artfully worded city ordinance: During the month of December, anyone may sell “coniferous trees” just about anywhere — no license required.

And then there’s that other special green attraction: the smell of money that comes with the right to operate tree stands 24-7, free of charge, no license needed. In 1938, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia waged what became known as his “War on Christmas” — an effort to keep mostly immigrant vendors off the streets by forcing them to obtain licenses. The city later changed the text of the law to apply to coniferous trees, rather than Christmas trees, to avoid the appearance of giving special treatment to one religious group. There are a few other carve-outs in New York’s licensing schemes for street vendors, including an easing of some regulations for veterans and a waiver of permits, on free speech grounds, for people selling books. For a two-year street vending license, the city charges $200 — but they’re so scarce that legal permit holders often “lease” them out to other vendors for tens of thousands of dollars.

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