“Doing business on the sidewalks of Downtown Flushing presents a different set of challenges than anywhere else in the city,” said Councilman Peter Koo. “Hundreds of thousands of people use the sidewalks, and we have to be considerate of the public space we all share.”
Home to an LIRR stop, a subway station, and several major bus routes, not to mention hundreds of restaurants and countless other retail establishments, Flushing is one of the busiest neighborhoods in the city.
In fact, the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue is the second busiest in the five boroughs.
And many businesses in the neighborhood spill out onto the sidewalks, which can help them economically but serves to worsen the crowding issues, forcing the braver (or more impatient) pedestrians into the streets and at odds with traffic.
“This is creating a safety issue,” said Koo.
In conjunction with the city’s Neighborhood Support Team Project, Koo hosted a town hall at Flushing Library last week to educate the neighborhood’s vendors about the various regulations overseeing stoop line stands.
It featured representatives from a number of city agencies that all play a role in the oversight of stoop line stands, from the Department of Buildings (DOB) to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to the 109th Precinct.
“We noticed about a half-dozen violations just on the walk over here,” said Perry Bootsma, a senior inspector with DCA. “They’re easily identifiable because you literally walk into them.
Sidewalk stands cannot extend more than three feet from the property line, and the only items that can be sold – with a permit, of course – are fruits, vegetables, soft drinks, ice cream or flowers.
Some other violations a DCA inspector might look for are if food is being prepped on the street or if money is being exchanged outside the physical establishment, both of which are illegal.
Steve Eitannani of DCA suggested doing your own inspection with a the same checklist a DCA inspector uses, which can be found at dca.nyc.gov. He also suggested scheduling a visit with a member of the agency’s Business Compliance Counsel.
That can be done by calling 311 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We really make business education a cornerstone of our work,” said Eitannani. “Your first interaction with our agency shouldn’t be a fine. We want you to succeed and thrive.”
Another major issues with stoop line stands is improper construction and failing to apply for the necessary permits to make alterations, which falls under the purview of DOB.
Anthony Iuliano, deputy director for Community Engagement at DOB, showed several slides of businesses in Flushing that could face fines for everything from improper electrical work to shoddily constructed awnings.
He suggested businesses looking to add a stoop line stand hire an architect to help them through the process.
“Doing work without a permit is at minimum a $6,000 fine,” Iuliano said. “That could put a small business out of business.”
Like DCA, he said DOB has staff that can help business owners comply with the law before they are hit with a fine. They are generally available from 4 to 7 p.m. at DOB’s Queens office inside Borough Hall at 120-55 Queens Boulevard.
“We can help address your needs and guide you down the avenues to get the proper permits or address a violation,” Iuliano said.