With the city failing to deliver on a promised site for their relocation, Stabroek Market Square vendors yesterday continued to protest their removal by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), which said an agreement would be reached in a few days.
When vendors turned up yesterday at the vacant lot at Hadfield and Lombard streets, which had been identified last Thursday by Town Clerk Royston King as the site to temporarily house them for the next four months, it was not ready and they said the owner of the land had placed padlocks on the entrances.
The vendors, who staged protests outside of both City Hall and near the Ministry of the Presidency, complained bitterly of lost business, while noting that the land was not even prepared to accommodate them. There were also puddles of water and heaps of sands at the site. There was also no evidence of any electrical works undertaken as promised by the council, leaving the vendors in doubt about their livelihoods.
“Why can’t they keep their agreement?” Joylyn Moore, a vendor, asked yesterday, while saying that the disruption is punishing their businesses. “They are very lying,” Moore added, referring to the city administration.
Some 200 vendors are said to be affected by the removal from the square, which was carried out on Sunday as part of the ongoing clean-up ahead of the jubilee independence celebrations. The council plans similar exercises at the Bourda, Albouystown and East Ruimveldt markets. However, the Stabroek vendors had only received notice of their relocation on Thursday.
In a statement late yesterday afternoon, King said that the city had secured the site at Lombard and Hadfield streets for the relocation of the vendors and added that it will be ready in a matter of days. He said the city has already spoken to the owner of the land and an agreement stood.
Earlier in the day, Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan had called on the vendors to have patience. He pointed out there would be a meeting with councillors to discuss a solution.
He said the city was in discussions with the owner of the land to work out an agreement. He said because of the ongoing discussions, everything remained at a standstill, meaning that the vendors would not be allowed to sell at the Stabroek Square while negotiations over the land continues. He said a meeting was planned for Friday between the council and vendors. “We will put our concerns on the table and so will they,” he said.
‘People got bills to pay’
On Sunday, vendors turned out and cleaned areas such as the Stabroek Square, Water Street and Longden Street. The city constabulary, during the cleanup exercise, seized stalls from those vendors who did not remove their property in time to facilitate the cleanup. The stalls were returned to owners yesterday with the understanding that they take their stalls home.
However, scores of vendors, faced with losses due to the lack of alternative accommodations for them, congregated yesterday outside of the Regent Street entrance of City Hall and demanded answers. A handful of them also protested outside of a barricade set up at the Regent Street and Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, barring them from the Ministry of the Presidency.
When Stabroek News visited, a group of ladies sat on the ground to demand answers.
“People got bills to pay, children to send to school, families to feed,” said Lurene Green, a food vendor, as she vented her frustration in not being able to work.
The woman said when she went to Barbados a few years ago, the government had asked vendors to have uniformed stalls. “I don’t know why they can’t do it here. After the jubilee what would happen?” Green questioned.
Devon Gibson, another vendor, questioned how the city council expects persons to earn a living. Gibson said crime seemed to be on the rise and it appeared as if city council was taking bread out of their mouths. He also complained that the city council moved them from the Stabroek Square and did not have a place to put them to sell.
Duncan said the council is working to ensure that everyone continued making a living. He pointed out that the city is not obliged to allow persons to vend with structures but it is bending backwards to assist because it understands they need to provide for their families. He added that the law does not provide for standstill structures to be erected but the city is allowing it. “The law says vending supposed to be a walk and sell affair, but we have allowed people to put down little structures to sell,” Duncan said.
A subsequent statement from the M&CC said it was asking the vendors to be patient as it seeks to ensure that the relocation process is fair and transparent.
It added that the Markets Department conducted a check on the number of vendors who are allotted stalls in the markets and discovered that many of them who have stalls are not occupying them, which has caused major congestion on the streets and pavements.
A visit to the area yesterday revealed that many persons were walking freely in and around the Stabroek Square. Many were also walking freely towards the different bus parks, although taxi and some minibus operators were also removed from the square to facilitate resurfacing, cleaning and reorganising of the parks.
Minibus operators from routes 45 (Main St- Lamaha), 46 (Stabroek-Lodge) and 41 (Guyhoc-South) were removed from their parks at the Stabroek Market Square. Their removal resulted in a traffic buildup in the city.
The routes 46 and 41 parks are now situated along the Avenue of the Republic, between Croal Street and America Street, while the Route 45 Park is located opposite the Route 40 (Kitty/Campbellville) park on Croal Street. The operators shared mixed views on being removed from the square.
The taxi operators that would usually operate at the square were not in sight. When Stabroek News enquired about their relocation, operators said they are around the city.
Duncan, when questioned on the removal of the barricades for the 46 and 41 parks at the Stabroek Square, said they were not working as minibus operators were not utilising the lanes assigned to them. The city had placed the barricades to create order for minibus operators and for a neater market front.
Further, he explained that the now clear square would be left as a public space. “If all goes well, the entire market face would be changed. There would be no [permanent structures], it would be for the public use,” he said, when asked what would become of the area that was once occupied.