No longer a free market: NYPD cleans up illegal vendors on East 14th Street

An East Village strip is now off the market to illegal street vendors, cops say.

Prior to the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, Immaculate Conception Church located on 14th Street and 1st Avenue became known for hosting a flea market in the front and rear of the house of worship, flogging clothing items, records, video games, jewelry, and more. However, when the deadly virus forced the mass closure of storefronts and the end to public gatherings, the church concluded its part in the market, but vendors continued to lay out their wares–only this time the products took a noticeable dip in quality. After the antique dealers moved out, the junk dealers moved in.

A man receives a summons. Photo by Dean Moses

The clothing was replaced with cans of string beans, the records were traded in for broken phone chargers, and the jewelry items were supplemented for bootleg movies. According to local store owners and residents, these scrap merchants brought with them a whole host of troubles. From fist fighting to blatant drug use, the sidewalk from Avenue A to 1st Avenue on 14 Street became a skid row. 

After nearly two years of hell, shopkeepers could be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. NYPD officers are now distributing summonses to these sidewalk traders and removing their items.

An officer writes a summons. Photo by Dean Moses

A local store manager who didn’t want to be identified, shared that the vendors have negatively affected her business since she says pedestrians don’t want to walk by her storefront, especially on weekends during which time the area sees a cluster of sellers. She says she is thankful that something is finally being done.

“That is what most of them do. They sell stuff just to get their fix,” the store manager said, explaining that she has seen many of the sellers partaking in blatant drug use.

According to NYPD sources, the effort to stop the vendors clustering is a joint effort between the NYPD, DHS, and DCWP and comes after continued business and residential complaints regarding homeless individuals, illegal vending, and garbage along the 14th Street corridor. The source also stated that officers handle these conditions on a daily basis in order to address the community’s concerns.

Items were removed. Photo by Dean Moses

During one of these cleanup efforts, amNewYork Metro observed the process. As responding officers ticketed several vendors, one seller refused to comment but instead directed fury at amNewYork Metro for documenting the procedure by hurling verbal slurs and threats. Multiple items were packed away into bags and the vendors were asked to leave the area.

According to the NYPD, this will be a continued effort.

A vendor was enraged when the NYPD removed him and his items from the street. Photo by Dean Moses