At what point does a routine garage sale become an illegal business?
Pelham Gardens residents have begun to complain about what they perceive as an impromptu flea market taking place every few weekends outside a residence at the end of Lodovick Avenue, just before Pelham Parkway North.
John Fratta, district manager of Community Board 11, said that, “As far as I’m concerned, if they’re having a market every weekend, it’s no longer just a yard sale. It’s a business.”
The issue, however, isn’t really frequency so much as use of space.
Eugene Tutora, president of the Chester Civic Association, said that, “You can have a garage sale. But you can’t have a garage sale every week, and you can’t keep having one until all your stuff is depleted,” but then acknowledged, “that alone wouldn’t matter so much. The real knock on this whole subject is that they got the stuff scattered all over. They have a 2-car garage, but they don’t keep the material they’re selling in their own driveway. They have it on the sidewalk. So because of that, cars pull up and block the public sidewalk.”
“We keep it in our own driveway,” insists a member of the family about the sale’s boundaries. “And we don’t bother anybody.” A spokesperson for the family also said that the sale happens only one weekend a month, if that.
A female neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, disagrees.
“It happens almost every weekend. Anyone who says it doesn’t is lying. Not that I care that much, it just makes the street too busy.”
Fratta said that sales at the residence have been an issue on CB 11’s radar since last year.
“For a while they claimed they just had a lot of stuff, but now it’s obviously a business. So we’ve asked consumer affairs to get down there, but we don’t know how much leverage we have.”
On Sunday, July 11, the sale was in full swing, according to Tutora. He drove over to the residence and spoke with the people running it. “I told her ‘Hey, you really can’t have this here, I get three or four calls each weekend. Get a sign, and let the sign say garage sale. Take all the material off the sidewalk and put it in your driveway, closest to the house. You can’t inconvenience the whole block just to sell your junk.’ But they didn’t have much to say, and there’s no doubt in my mind they’re going to keep doing this.”
The family spokesman claimed the family is large and some relatives from Throggs Neck and Morris Park conduct their garage sale from this location as well because it provides excellent visability.
In the past, common procedure in the borough for overly frequent yard sales has been for the Department of Buildings to come and padlock a residence’s garage. But it can be a slow process, and often, if complaints stop coming, a sale could just continue.
Residents of the house in question stressed that they know of other homes in the area where similar garage sales are held.
“If there’s something wrong with what we do, all the garage sales should be investigated,” said the family spokesperson.
“They’re really creating a nuisance,” said Tutora. “But this isn’t heavy crime or anything.”