If there's something you want to buy, it's a safe bet somebody is selling it in New York City -- anything from a caviar sandwich to a magazine published by homeless people.

And increasingly, you might find yourself tripping over it. Literally.

In parts of my Inwood neighborhood, residents can't walk down the street because the sidewalks are lined with illegal vendors. Most of them lay out their wares on blankets -- not on tables -- blocking the sidewalk.

The police department has acknowledged the neighborhood problem, but a promised crackdown has yet to happen.

Many people in the neighborhood are upset at the unlicensed vendors -- myself included. We all sometimes patronize them, but there's a difference between a person selling goods he made atop a table and someone with a picnic blanket blocking the sidewalk.

This isn't some indie artists market, or the piragua cart. These vendors often take over city blocks with a smorgasbord of items, including refuse. I advertently became part of the problem some time ago, after a dog crate I had placed on the curb for recycling was later seen for sale at the corner.

My trash became someone else's fortune, I guess.

A friend who owns a local pharmacy was fined $100 for having an illegal sign on the sidewalk a few months ago. It was one of those sandwich signs with daily specials written on them. The sign was about a block from the worst offending sidewalk blockers, who I've never seen fined.

I'm all for enforcing the law, but if the city fines a taxpaying small-business owner for a sign on the sidewalk, it should apply the regulations on illegal vendors too.

By punishing one and not the other, the city takes a side. It also shows it cares more about making money from people likely to pay the summonses than improving the quality of life of those who live here.

If the rules are enforced evenly, the sidewalks would become walkable again and I would be able to patronize local businesses now blocked by unlicensed vendors.

Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.