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Locals | Manny the Peddler

Manny_HowardDan Glass
Emmanuel Howard.

“Hey, buddy, I got some tools for ya,” says Emmanuel Howard from his table full of goods on Avenue A between Second and Third Streets. While helping a neighborhood acquaintance, he was greeted continually by passersby — elderly people with dogs, leggy blondes, kids, and street folk. He says he’s been selling here for 32 years.

Mr. Howard — who is known as Manny the Peddler to almost everyone — is one of the last street peddlers on the Lower East Side, infamous in the 80’s and 90’s for blocks-long stretches of people selling everything from antique furniture to dead batteries. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani eliminated much of the street vending during his terms, but Mr. Howard remains. At 70, he still hauls second-hand merchandise by handtruck, virtually all of it set aside for him by neighborhood residents, with one recent score of metal garbage cans and push brooms from Stomp, courtesy of the Orpheum Theater.

“There used to be people everywhere at three, four o’clock in the morning,” says Mr. Howard, who rarely stands still, between arranging his inventory and giving a quick pitch to anyone eyeing an item. “Not like now.”
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This Jaybird You Can’t Change

legsMichelle RickFree as a bird (not the article’s author).

I am an educated person who can read and write. I can also see perfectly well. I should know, therefore, that when there is a giant red hand flashing at me from across the street, I should probably stay on the curb instead of walking out into the oncoming traffic. But I don’t remember learning as a child that crossing the street only when the white symbol for walking-human was illuminated was essential to societal orderliness. I was always just told to hold hands.

Lacking this educational background, I convinced myself that if a car was to hit me, the driver would have to pay me several thousand dollars in some sort of law suit and I could go back to my life of walking into oncoming traffic again, except I’d be richer. I’m in no position to turn down free money. “Bring it on cars!” I would say as they honked their useless horns and I tiptoed across the asphalt. “Try and hit me, I’ll see you in court!” They would slow down, like cowards, or slam on their breaks, also like cowards. They would climb out their windows and tell me I’m crazy and that I must have a death wish. No, I just knew that the alternative to getting to the other side of the street when I wanted meant either free money or death. And if I died, then I wouldn’t really know the difference would I?

This attitude allowed me to get a lot done while crossing intersections. I could time myself on a mile walk, uninterrupted. I could eat the falafel I just bought. I could make calls to my grandmother. I saw the stretch of open asphalt as a vast field of opportunity. What could I get done from point A to point B? Could I finish this container of pasta salad? Could I paint my nails this shade of electric blue? Could I keep knitting this scarf? Of course I could. Read more…

Danger Crossing the Bowery

Crossing at BleeckerKathryn Kattalia

During the 20 years that she has lived on East Fourth Street, Frances Bush has seen dozens of accidents involving pedestrians rushing across the Bowery — a wide avenue stretching roughly a mile from Chatham Square in Chinatown to Cooper Square in the East Village.

“You have cars coming off of Houston onto Bowery and they’re going quite rapidly,” said Ms. Bush, 50. “With the construction and the bike lanes, people get confused. A lot of safety has to do with that.”

With traffic running north and south, the Bowery is one of the main arteries of the East Village. It is also one of the deadliest.

Of the 109 pedestrians hit and killed on Manhattan’s streets between 2007 and 2009, seven fatalities took place on the Bowery, making it the fourth most dangerous road for pedestrians in the borough, according to a newly released report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

For a longtime Bowery observer like Ms. Bush, that comes as no surprise.

“People don’t abide by the law,” she said. “They don’t follow the lights, they don’t follow directions. It gets real crowded here and people get distracted.”
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