Floral shop owners and residents are urging police to crack down on illegal flower vendors whom they said descend upon Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park and Howard Beach during holidays like Valentine’s Day and make it difficult for stores to stay in business.
“It’s a struggle,” said Marlo Pisacane, the owner of Heavenly Florist in Ozone Park. “Illegal vendors don’t pay sales tax, don’t pay employees. It’s greatly affecting all the shops throughout New York.”
Pisacane said flower shop owners up and down the boulevard have been frustrated that police turn a blind eye to the vendors who set up shop along a “no vend” zone. The city restricts vending on Cross Bay Boulevard between Liberty Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. There are exceptions for disabled veterans, and two of them per block are allowed to sell in the restricted area.
“As flower shops, we have to get all these licenses — from the Department of Agriculture, from the Department of Consumer Affairs, and all of this costs money,” Pisacane sad. “But a vendor can come and sell things with no license?”
Pisacane said she and other owners call 311 “like crazy,” but “nothing ever is done” about the vendors.
A spokeswoman for the city Department of Consumer Affairs said it has received no complaints about vendors in this area, and a spokesman for the NYPD said police have enforced the no-vend zone. The police spokesman said the department doled out 71 summonses to vendors in the 106th Precinct last year, which includes Cross Bay Boulevard.
Frank Gulluscio, a civic leader from Howard Beach, said he’s especially concerned about the vendors stressing stores that are already struggling because of the poor economy.
“These mom-and-pop shops are law-abiding, tax paying businesses that make up the backbone of the community, and we can’t afford to have them move due to the fact that there are illegal vendors out there selling their flowers,” Gulluscio said.
Pisacane said she has thought about moving her shop to Long Island because she said police crack down much more harshly on vendors there.
Missy Miller, a spokeswoman from Teleflora, as well as Pisacane, said flower shops have increasingly faced challenges in recent years. Teleflora, a national flower delivery service that sends all of its orders to local florists, has had a campaign since 2009 to save the neighborhood flower shops. Miller said florists lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to shippers who do not work with local flower stores.
“The mom-and-pop shops are dying,” Pisacane said. “These are the places you got flowers as a kid from, and where you go when you get married. There are not many of us left.”