By Harry Almendar
I have worked the corner of 7th Avenue and 12th Street with my amazing fruit cart for over 20 years. The last few have been quite rocky, but on March 23rd, after a 16-month absence, I returned to my space in front of the AIDS Memorial Park!
Until 2018 I’d worked that corner, which was adjacent to a utility building run by St. Vincent’s Hospital. I served hospital workers, visitors, and hundreds of people each day on their way to and from the subway station at West 12th Street and Seventh Avenue. When St. Vincent’s closed, and the zoning deal allowed luxury condos to be built, the supervision of the whole triangle bordered by Greenwich Avenue, West 12th Street and Seventh Avenue was assigned to the NYC Parks Department. With community input, and cooperation from the Parks Department and others, a memorial to the thousands of AIDS patients treated at St. Vincent’s Hospital was created.
I had gotten always gotten my permit from the Department of Consumer Affairs. One day in October, 2018 I received a summons, and had my merchandise seized, because I didn’t have a Parks Department permit. On the advice of George Capsis at WestView News I called Arthur Schwartz. He called the Parks Department to complain; he was told they weren’t issuing permits. A Change.org petition followed, which Arthur forwarded to the Parks Department, which then agreed to let me work the corner without a permit until they issued a Request for Proposals (RFP).
Things went ok until Halloween 2019, when, as part of the parade preparation the NYPD came by while the cart was being worked by one of my assistants; they towed the cart away. Several days later Arthur and I went to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. We got the ticket dismissed, and Arthur helped me get my merchandise and cart back.
Shortly after that, the Parks Department issued an RFP, and Arthur worked with me to set up a corporation, get insurance, and complete my application.
In March 2020, a week before the pandemic closed NYC down, I was notified that I had been the top bidder. But a week later, not only was the city closed, the Parks Department was too.
Earlier this month, after the Parks Department had been stalling (they had awarded me the wrong kind of permit) Arthur wrote to Commissioner Silver and I got permission to open.
A little bit of Greenwich Village—my second home—saved!