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
Anyone walking through Times Square would notice them, standing like sentries at strategic spots, holding out handfuls of fliers or walking around with clipboards. Bus tour promoters in red jackets unfold maps for visitors.
People wearing sandwich boards often shill for Broadway musicals, and some dress in costume to echo the productions they are promoting – on Friday, there were at least two young women dressed in costumes inspired by Carrie Fisher’s landmark role in “Star Wars.” Fisher’s autobiographical “Wishful Drinking” is on Broadway.
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Louise Torrisi, who was selling spa tickets in Times Square a few years back when she met Martinez, said the few sellers who intimidate tourists into illegal sales “make it very hard for someone doing something honest.”
More than 3,000 vendors have licenses that entitle them to sell their wares on the street; city officials say they can’t be sure how many others are illegally hawking wares on street corners, subways and outside Broadway theaters.
Police Capt. Edward Winski said this week that his Manhattan precinct, which covers Times Square, made 400 arrests this year on charges of illegal peddling. Most involved the sale of counterfeit goods, and others were cited for failing to possess the tax stamp needed to sell.
Torrisi said Martinez used to introduce himself by saying “put some season on it” and said she didn’t see the tactics police described.
“He was always kind and warm, and I would never perceive him as someone involved in negativity,” she said. She added, “I don’t justify the gun by any means.”
Antoine Tucker, who was raised in Brooklyn and performs under the name Jus Write, said he knew Martinez, and he called the rapper’s actions “mind-boggling.”
Unlike Martinez, Tucker, 27, has a tax stamp to sell the CDs of his group, known both as Da Boulevard Boyz and the Blood Brothers.
He says he can aggressively promote his own work but gets respect for his hustle and the simple refrain, “Can you help us out with a donation?”
“No one knows us. It’s hard to get our work out there,” he said. “I’m hoping I get a break.”