If you’ve been following the local news or listening to the latest chat in the neighborhood, you’re probably aware of the controversy over a Christmas tree vendor doing business on the sidewalk in front of the now vacant space previously occupied by a Loft store. This Channel 4 video (there’s an ad at the beginning) includes an interview with Key Food Montague co-owner Ivan Arguello who, according to this Eagle story was troubled by the vendor’s display of “a ‘Temporary Certificate of Authority’ from the NYS Department of Finance and Taxation, issued to Key Food and dated 2020.” The Eagle quotes Mr. Arguello: “They put my name at risk. God forbid something happens. They have a gas generator.” There is another Christmas tree vendor physically located in front of Key Food, but it appears to be there with the store’s permission.
Channel 4 also interviewed Estela Johannessen, owner of James Weir Floral Company, on the same block of Montague. She complained that the vendors were selling wreaths and other small decorative items in competition with her store. According to the Eagle story, when Ms. Johannesssen asked the vendors not to sell these items, “they laughed in my face.” Finally, when Channel 4 interviewed Montague BID executive director Kate Chura, she said,
They are using somebody else’s address. Don’t have permission from the property owner [Midwood Investment and Development, owners of the building with the vacant former Loft space]. And they’re competing with other businesses, . . . [and] everyone would have a happier holiday if government agencies modernized the rules.
The Eagle story also quotes City Council Member Lincoln Restler, who had been alerted by Ms. Chura. Mr. Restler told the Eagle that he had “engaged with the Police Department’s vending unit” and with “the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP).” He added: “It’s a good thing to have access to Christmas trees, but we are concerned because the vendor is selling some of the same items that a beloved local storefront is selling.”
Apparently Mr. Restler’s efforts were effective. As of yesterday, as the photo above shows, all trees and other merchandise had been removed from the racks, and the vendors’ workspace was also gone.
Photo by Martha Foley for BHB.