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At a Street Market, Bruised Fruit, Summonses and Rats

March 10, 2002. New York Times

The vegetables are cheap, even by Chinatown standards. A dollar buys a pound of mustard greens, or two pounds of bok choy, or four pounds of yellow onions. But the ramshackle market, operating daily in front of Confucius Plaza along Division Street, is facing strong opposition from tenants and might be closed.

Tenants at Confucius Plaza, a giant apartment complex that includes a school, say the market has turned one of the neighborhood's main sidewalks into a filthy maze, teeming with well-fed rats.

''They are the size of cats,'' said Lillian Leong, a member of the complex's board of directors. ''Children from P. S. 124 can't use the sidewalk, and are always dodging traffic.''

In recent weeks, city officials have made multiple inspections, issuing summonses for violations like poor sanitation and peddling without a permit. ''In the course of unlawfully selling there, the vendors basically leave their garbage behind,'' said Fred Leopold-Hooke, director of the street vendor division at the city's Department of Business Services. The vendors say they need the market to support their families.

''It's a pitiful living,'' said one vendor, a laid-off garment worker, who asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisal. ''We're in the cold all day, and we make 30 bucks.''

Another vendor, Raymond Doung, a Vietnamese immigrant who lives near Coney Island with his wife and two children, described his routine. He arrives at the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx at 7 a.m., spends hours scavenging for leftover produce, unloads his van by 2 p.m. and closes at sundown. ''I have to find the cheap stuff,'' said Mr. Doung, who was selling a dozen bruised mangoes for $3 last week. ''If we don't sell cheap, they don't buy.''

The market sprang up several years ago, catering to elderly people and poorer workers. Many people shop there just before boarding gypsy vans to Sunset Park, Brooklyn; residents complain that those vans also clog the block.

Extra effort is being made to clean up. But David Goodman, a director at Tudor Realty Services, the complex's management company, said more was needed. ''Our main priorities,'' he said, ''are doing something about the casino buses on the Bowery, getting rid of the commuter vans and getting rid of the vendors.''


Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

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