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NY Skyride Loses Suit Over Street Hawker Arrests

The Empire State Building (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

The Empire State Building (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Alex Silverman Feature Image Alex Silverman
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) – Ticket hawkers for NY Skyride at the Empire State Building will have to get vending licenses to continue selling tickets on the street after it lost a bid to get a court to declare that a recent spate of arrests of its street hawkers was illegal.

LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman reports 


NY Skyride’s owners sued the city over six unlicensed-vending arrests and 14 tickets issued this spring to people who roam the streets near the landmark skyscraper, touting and selling tickets to the attraction, which simulates a heart-pounding aerial tour of the city skyline.

“That’s something that many businesses in this city get. there’s nothing illegal it. there is no city law that prevents it,” Skyride’s lawyer Randy Mastro told WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman.

Mastro says the city is targeting his client just because the building’s owners don’t like the aggressive sales style.

But a judge ruled last week that the arrests and tickets were based on proper police considerations, and officials were within their rights to say the street ticket sales required a vending license. At the moment, would-be vendors can’t even get on a waiting list for the relevant license.

A city lawyer hailed the ruling Tuesday.

“As the court recognized, there are dangers inherent in the use of congested public sidewalks for private vending activities,” attorney Melanie Vogel Sadok said in a statement.

NY Skyride said in court papers that Empire State Building representatives regarded the attraction’s employees and customers as “riffraff,” wanted to get the business out of the building and leaned on the Police Department to go after the hawkers.

A building owner has called the claims baseless. State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Mills’ ruling called them “pure conjecture and speculation.”

“The Police Department gave consideration to the complaints it received and came to its own conclusions based on the law,” she wrote.

Mastro says he plans to appeal.

“It really shocks the conscience that the city would try to shut down a taxpaying, law-abiding business that employs over a 100 people,” said Mastro. “We are confident we will be vindicated on appeal and the justice will be done.”

The city has said Skyride’s street agents were simply lucky to have escaped attention earlier.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)