For most tourists coming to New York City, a trip downtown wouldn't be complete without two stops -- the World Trade Center and the outdoor bazaar known as Canal Street. At the first, they come to gawk and pay their respects; at the second, they pay tribute to the street where great brands of all nations are sold at a fraction of their price. Like Woody Allen who so famously put it -- "in my family the greatest sin was buying retail" -- I share the innate drive for a good bargain. Yet seeing an endless stream of plastic garbage bags being toted by otherwise well-shod, if not well-heeled visitors, makes one feel as though there's something more going on here than an underground economy. As the business trickles below Canal Street, residents of Tribeca are beginning to think so as well. (Distribution centers are some times located in the basements of residential buildings.) They've begun organizing and pestering their local Congressman in hopes of getting the police to increase their harrassment of the counterfeit trade, which now works with street teams, armed with color catalogues of the items for sale, who then steer the customers to offices and basements where the deal goes down. Out the door they soon come bearing tell-tale garbage bags. My modest proposal may be the only way to stop the proliferation of counterfeit Pradas, Laurens, Guccis, Rolexes, Spades et al: arrest the people who are knowingly buying these goods. Like arresting the John, not just the prostitute (not that I support either). That would surely act as a deterrent to the meek tourists, and cut-off one of their biggest reasons for coming downtown as well.
In photo by Carl Glassman a peddler ushers shoppers into a residential building. via Tribeca Trib