An Easy Guide to Racial Politics on the Council

In the paper this week, I wrote about anunusual, private memo from a lobbyist that details the way to build a racial coalition on the CIty Counil around a single, contentious issue.

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, is trying to organize a “diverse umbrella coalition” of Council members to support a crackdown on street vendors without appearing anti-immigrant, according to an email he wrote.

Here, from the memo, is a list of the officials that can help him do that, and of what they do — and don’t — bring to the table :

Dan Garodnick: extremely proactive in support of reclaiming the streets of his district;

Alan Gerson: Active on the lower east side and in Chinatown and looking to put together comprehensive peddler legislation. Gerson will also be able to bring a number of Chinese merchant groups into the expanding coalition;

Hiram Monseratte: A key player for us since his support for our position will go a long way towards reducing the anti-immigrant chants of the street vendor cohort. Monseratte is also looking to actively recruit Hispanic store owners in the Roosevelt Avenue corridor, another helpful contribution towards the creation of a multi-ethnic coalition;

Jessica Lappin: Has shown some interest in the issue but more so out of a concern to placate her East Side community/block associations. It remains to be seen just how active she will be on the entire question;

Joe Addabbo: Solid, pro-business legislator who will help us recruit a multi-ethnic merchant contingent in the Ozone Park community;

David Yassky: Chair of the council’s small business committee, he will be an articulate spokesperson for controlling vendor proliferation. His staff will also be helpful at reaching out to the city’s small business groups;

Leroy Comrie: Chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, he is someone who may play a key role in the legislative process. Not necessarily a forceful leader but, if he is given enough cover by his colleagues, can be instrumental in carrying legislation forward;

John Liu: Chair of the Transportation Committee he has staked out some strong positions on street safety. His advocacy on the peddlers/street safety issue, given his constituency, would be very valuable (also has ties to key Chinese business groups);

Vinnie Gentile: Bay Ridge lawmaker who is extremely supportive local business interests;

Jimmy Vacca: District Manger of a local community board for over twenty five years, Vacca is a strong supporter of local businesses and street safety. He has ties to about five or six local merchant groups in the East Bronx;

Miguel Martinez: Important potential ally who has ties to the Bodega Association as well as to the National Supermarket Association (independent Dominican supermarket owners).

The memo, which was passed on to me by email, goes on to say:

This is just a brief overview. It would be my suggestion that we look to create a diverse umbrella coalition that has the financial support of the major real estate organizations. In this way we will be able to generate strong public support for beleaguered (and often minority) shopkeepers while at the same time generating enough resources from larger behind-the-scenes business interests.

In a brief interview, Lipsky confirmed that he wrote it, and explained what he described as the necessity of demonstrating diverse backing for the measure. “There’s been a sense from certain elements in the council that if we’re to be successful, we have to demonstrate the depth of support we have,” he said.

As for how the crackdown on largely immigrant peddlers could possibly be presented as pro-immigrant, he said, “There are 9,000 food vendor licenses. There are only 4,000 food cart licenses, which means in all likelihood, there is a pool of contract labor that is manning the car for people who own the carts.”

The whole email is after the jump.

– Azi Paybarah

Memorandum

From: Dr. Richard Lipsky

To: Mike Weiss (MetroTech BID); Tim Tomkins (Times Square Alliance)
Subject: Peddler Compliance Coalition
Date: 02/22/2007

In order to effectively challenge the peddler status and the concomitant mythology that surrounds their activity, it will be necessary to expand the current coalition so that we are able to present a diverse city wide coalition in support of a common agenda that stresses the rights of store owners and communities to reclaim their Main Streets in all of the city’s neighborhoods. We have begun to do just that but the active participation of the BIDs all over the city is a necessary step in the creation of the needed coalition.

On the political front, we have garnered the support of the following council members:

1.Dan Garodnick: extremely proactive in support of reclaiming the streets of his district;
2.Alan Gerson: Active on the lower east side and in Chinatown and looking to put together comprehensive peddler legislation. Gerson will also be able to bring a number of Chinese merchant groups into the expanding coalition;
3.Hiram Monseratte: A key player for us since his support for our position will go a long way towards reducing the anti-immigrant chants of the street vendor cohort. Monseratte is also looking to actively recruit Hispanic store owners in the Roosevelt Avenue corridor, another helpful contribution towards the creation of a multi-ethnic coalition;
4.Jessica Lappin: Has shown some interest in the issue but more so out of a concern to placate her East Side community/block associations. It remains to be seen just how active she will be on the entire question;
5.Joe Addabbo: Solid, pro-business legislator who will help us recruit a multi-ethnic merchant contingent in the Ozone Park community;
6.David Yassky: Chair of the council’s small business committee, he will be an articulate spokesperson for controlling vendor proliferation. His staff will also be helpful at reaching out to the city’s small business groups;
7.Leroy Comrie: Chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, he is someone who may play a key role in the legislative process. Not necessarily a forceful leader but, if he is given enough cover by his colleagues, can be instrumental in carrying legislation forward;
8.John Liu: Chair of the Transportation Committee he has staked out some strong positions on street safety. His advocacy on the peddlers/street safety issue, given his constituency, would be very valuable (also has ties to key Chinese business groups);
9.Vinnie Gentile: Bay Ridge lawmaker who is extremely supportive local business interests;
10.Jimmy Vacca: District Manger of a local community board for over twenty five years, Vacca is a strong supporter of local businesses and street safety. He has ties to about five or six local merchant groups in the East Bronx;
(11) Miguel Martinez: Important potential ally who has ties to the Bodega Association as well as to the National Supermarket Association (independent Dominican supermarket owners). In addition, he is also close to Peter Walsh, the owner of Coogan’s Restaurant-and a knowledgeable opponent of vendor proliferation.

This list is certainly not complete; and council members Gallagher, Fidler, White, McMahon, Ignizio (newly elected on Staten Island), Felder, Gioia, Sanders, Nelson and Recchia are all potentially strong allies for us. We are looking to create a council support group for our outside coalition and we will ask the supportive members to engage business and civic groups within their districts to become part of our expanding organization. Currently, we will have the support of the Bodega Association, the Small Business Congress and the Korean-American Small Business Service Center in our effort to demonstrate the diversity of our coalition. We will also add a number of the Hispanic and Caribbean Chambers of Commerce to this group.

What we need to do now is to identify the various legislative and enforcement strategies that we can utilize as we continue to add allies to our coalition. As I mentioned, we are looking to create a separate enforcement unit at DCA, while simultaneously also examining how we can strengthen the existing law so that peddlers aren’t in a position to unfairly compete with tax paying store owners.

In addition, we will be asking the council to investigate the peddler supply chain to determine the extent to which these vendors are fronting for wholesaler cartels. As part of this investigation we will also ask for the council to examine the exploitation of the peddler work force to underscore the extent to which the peddlers do not represent a true entrepreneurial class.

This is just a brief overview. It would be my suggestion that we look to create a diverse umbrella coalition that has the financial support of the major real estate organizations. In this way we will be able to generate strong public support for beleaguered (and often minority) shopkeepers while at the same time generating enough resources from larger behind-the-scenes business interests.