PORT of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez has admitted the City Council did not consult with vendors who operate along the Charlotte Street Heritage Route Market, when they made the decision to shut it down yesterday at a special caucus.
Instead of plying their trade, he has now invited vendors to use the Central Market on Abattoir Road in the interim, or else wait until the new location two blocks east at the site of the old Angostura Bond Building, between Nelson and George streets, is opened. The decision, Martinez said, needed to be made as soon as possible, to expedite development of the site.
Martinez, who was speaking to reporters after the corporation’s monthly statutory meeting at City Hall, Knox Street, said while the initial arrangement with vendors had been suspended pending restructuring, in the past few weeks, when the street had been cleaned and traffic unimpeded by vendors on the roadside, the corporation had received several suggestions from the public, including the protective services, about allowing the street to remain clear.
It will also be part of a revitalised Central Business District, to “enhance and protect markets in a modern context” as well as strike a balance with vending, parking, and restoration of parks and squares, Martinez said at the statutory meeting. Among the other suggestions he had for the city was the “aggressive push” for parking meters in Downtown; an upgrade of the central market; and encouraging the business community to partner with the public sector to develop the city, including a business development fee.
Junior Lewis, president of the Charlotte Street Vendors Association, said that he and his colleagues were “hurt and disappointed” with the council’s decision. In fact, when the mayor announced the plan to shut down Charlotte Street vending, vendors attending the statutory meeting walked out.
Afterwards, Shawn Mohammed held a loud, lonely protest outside City Hall shouting in the street, within earshot of Martinez who at the time was on the second floor verandah being interviewed by the press. Mohammed shouted that as a vendor he had been deceived by the council.
Lewis felt similarly, saying that while they mayor had mentioned restructuring to them, they felt as if they had been tricked with the announcement to close down the market. He was also concerned that the location would be a deterrent to customers because of crime and poor sanitation.
“That’s a complaint and they are entitled to that but I am the mayor of the City of Port of Spain. I am trying to come up with an idea that will work for everyone. Sometimes you make decisions that are not popular but are in the better interest of the public and the city,” Martinez said.