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Downtown dispute

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A plan by Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams to prevent vehicular traffic from traversing some streets in the bustling commercial downtown Kingston district appears to be heading into a maelstrom as there are sharply divided views on the proposal.

Vendors who already clog the streets with their goods laid out on tarpaulin say the plan makes sense, while some of their colleagues agree with store owners and operators that the idea is absolute madness and unworkable.

“We want to pedestrianise Beckford Street, as well as some sections of other streets in the area, including Temple Lane, Peters Lane, etcetera. We have been working on it for sometime now,” Councillor Williams, who not only chairs the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Council, formerly Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, but is also a member of the Senate, told the

Jamaica Observer last Tuesday.


“It’s all a part of bringing some order to the city, because we can’t continue like this. Vendors are all over the streets. There is the municipal police, but when they take any action, as soon as they leave the vicinity the vendors just go right back and take up the spaces again. That is not conducive to order,” the mayor said.

“There are vendors who have been selling on the streets for 15 years and more, and we are hoping that by formalising the situation we can encourage them to become part of a more orderly environment, which would also encourage younger vendors to do the same and earn more money, pay their vending fees and boost the corporation’s revenues,” Williams pointed out.

He said, however, that it is a fact that there is not enough market space to accommodate all vendors, therefore the municipal council would have to seek to turn some streets, which currently cater to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, into pedestrianised streets.

“There are streets downtown which we could easily turn into being accessed only by pedestrians and turn over to the vendors,” he said, noting that one of his predecessors, current Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie, had also attempted to get the vendors off the streets and into legalised locations without success. However, he said that failure was primarily due to a lack of resources to sustain the effort.

He said that with McKenzie seeing eye to eye with him on the matter, there is a much better chance of them succeeding in reducing the crowding on the streets.

However, he admitted that the council would need a lot more resources than is now at its disposal to sustain the transformation of the area.

“Business cannot be done in disorder, and so we need to start by restoring order in the city,” Senator Williams said recently.

“We have already got buy-in from the vendors. They know that although downtown Kingston is the largest shopping area outside of Half-Way-Tree, it can be better if there is more order,” he added.

However, yesterday when the

Sunday Observer spoke to vendors on Beckford Street they said they were hearing about the plan for the first time. The majority of them, though, welcomed the proposal.

“Dat woulda a good yes,” said one vendor who gave his name as Jason. “It can work out. It would be a good idea if dem stop the vehicles from coming through.”

Another vendor, who gave her name only as Jean, agreed.

“A di best thing dat the mayor ever do,” she said.

Asked why she said that, she explained: “Because it would help the vendors; vendors get a fight fi a long time.”

The idea was also supported by a male vendor who gave his name as Blacks and whose stock of female underwear occupied a spot almost in the middle of the street. “Dat’s a good idea, a very good idea,” he said.

When the

Sunday Observer asked them about the concern expressed by some store owners that the measure would affect the delivery of goods, the vendors said that should not pose a problem.

“No man, dem good, because when the truck come wi jus go pan di sidewalk, gi dem dem space, mek dem do weh dem a do, den wi come back inna di road,” Blacks said.

Jean shared a similar view.

“We wi gi dem space, dem nuh have no problem,” she said. “A years dis a gwaan and wi gi dem space fi get dem things. It can work. Wi nah fight gainst the store owner dem; dem nuh fi fight gainst wi. Wi always gi dem space.”

Jason agreed. “If dem put up a sign that say ‘delivery only’, it can work.”

But Andrea, who also sells on the street, disagreed.

“It cyaan work because this is a vehicular road. Not only that, when the people dem get dem container dem, where are they gonna put their goods?” she asked. “There are several stores along this street. You tell me, when you lock off the street, how are they going to get their containers?

“Di mayor know it cyaan work [but] because him feel seh him get a position him jus waan talk. Ah di same ting, nutten nah change, believe mi,” she said, triggering views for and against the proposal among her colleagues standing nearby on the cluttered street.

A store clerk at Sports Fashion said a man from the KSAC came and spoke to her about a month ago.

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