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After Times Square Shooting, NYC Peddlers Still Hustle For Cash

After Times Square Shooting, NYC Peddlers Still Hustle For Cash

Officer block off Times Square after shooting. (AP Photo)

The AP via YellowBrix

December 14, 2009

NEW YORK – The hustle was already hard for aspiring rappers like Antoine and Kawan Tucker, who ask visitors in Times Square for cash donations for their self-produced CDs.

The hustle got even harder when one of their own was shot dead in a gunfight with a police officer around the block from where he hawked his rap demos.

The Tucker brothers are part of a tourist-driven industry of people who peddle fliers, CDs and souvenirs to visitors, sometimes using aggressive tactics to scam them. Police who step up enforcement when holiday tourists flood the city shot and killed Raymond Martinez on Thursday after they said he opened fire on them with a Mac-10 machine pistol.

Days after the shooting, the brothers tried setting up shop again on Broadway where Martinez had peddled, but police told them to take their business elsewhere.

Kawan Tucker said the Martinez shooting is hurting a hardworking group of people scrounging for a buck.

“They’re treating everyone like we’re all one person,” said Tucker, who performs under the name King Tuck and was wearing a black beanie with the words “I am king” embroidered on the side. “I don’t understand what we’re doing wrong.”

A plainclothes officer shot Martinez, 25, in the passenger pickup area of the landmark Marriott Marquis Hotel after the officer asked the aspiring rapper for the tax stamp required for street hawkers to sell legally. Police say Martinez fled, firing at the officers with a stolen machine pistol before he was shot to death.

Police said Martinez ran a scam in which he would ask a tourist his or her name, put the name on one of his CDs and then demand payment.

“For the most part, they were fairly intimidating,” said Josiah Deandrea, who was distributing fliers down the street near the scene on Friday for a comedy club. He said he knew Martinez.

But Antoine Tucker and other vendors say he didn’t represent the vast number of street hustlers and promoters who work the open plazas and sidewalks around Times Square, passing out discounted show tickets, souvenirs and knockoff goods and offering bus tours of the city. Among them are aspiring actors, people trying to make extra cash for the holidays, immigrants and homeless New Yorkers who log long hours in all weather, including bone-chilling cold on Friday.

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