Vagrant vendors in East Village get tickets as cops work to break up junk market

A vendor sells items along East 14th Street in the East Village on Oct. 17, 2020.
Photo by Dean Moses


Sections of the sidewalk between East 14th Street Avenue A and First Avenue have now been sectioned off to prevent vagabond peddlers setting up shop.

Caution tape and large cones were erected early Saturday morning in hopes of deterring unlicensed vendors from selling their wares as a part of a weekend, pop-up flea market in front of newly constructed apartment buildings and neighboring small businesses.

These measures are reported to have been taken by private security from a nearby building after last week’s reports from amNewYork Metro on the situation.

While this latest effort to control an out-of-control market seems to have kept that section of the sidewalk clear — removing some homeless main stays from the area — it has also pushed some sellers further along the avenue.

Traders can now be seen turning the corner of First Avenue, setting up shreds of wrinkled tarp littered with worn shoes and battered power strips. The scene is likewise identical on the corner of Avenue A in front of the recently installed L Train station elevator. 

A vendor set up near the entrance to the First Avenue L train station in the East Village.Photo by Dean Moses

A similar situation has manifested itself right around the corner, along First Avenue between East 14th and East 15th Streets, where individuals have clustered together selling used merchandise, engaging in drug use, and occasional reports of violence, according to nearby residents and merchants.

Whereas Avenue A is watched over by the 9th precinct, this section, although nearby, is governed by the 13th Precinct, which appears to have taken a more direct approach to clearing up the area.

According to an anonymous source, on Oct. 15, police officers and the Department of Sanitation performed a enforcement sweep, handing out summons, confiscated items, and forced out vagrant dwellers before the sanitation team removed trash and other debris.

A bystander checks out merchandise along East 14th Street in the East Village.Photo by Dean Moses

amNewYork Metro viewed a copy of one ticket which states violation is for “the unauthorized selling of merchandise without a valid vending license.”

Although the sidewalk on 14th and 15th Streets have been mostly cleared, First Avenue remains an amalgamation of legitimate flea market dealers — who pay to sell in conjunction with nearby Immaculate Conception Church — and homeless peddlers, who many feel use the religious location as sanctuary to hawk stolen and broken goods, while also supporting a cycle of homelessness and drug use.

Local residents and business have reported countless lewd acts and controlled substance distribution, violence, piles of garbage, and constant 911 calls over the past several months.

Since amNewYork Metro’s initial report, the area seems to be remaining unhampered on weekdays, yet the weekends appear to be just as jam-packed as ever, even obstructing foot traffic. 

amNewYork Metro has reached out to the NYPD for further comment.

Photo by Dean Moses