A disabled Vietnam veteran who defied the city Parks Department by setting up a hot dog stand on prime real estate outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art was carted off in handcuffs yesterday. Dan Rossi, 69, was charged with obstructing traffic and disorderly conduct after he refused to relocate his stand during an enforcement sweep. The area outside the Met has been a lucrative location for the Parks Department, which leased the space to one vendor for $642,000 a year.
But two years ago Rossi showed up and started vending without kicking any money up to the city, citing a 19th-century law permittting veterans to work as street vendors in areas others cannot. Other veterans followed his lead and the sidewalk outside the museum has turned into a sort of crowded labyrinth of vendors. As a result of the competition and construction, the "official" vendor, Pasang Sherpa, fell behind on the rent to the city and was evicted—only to return with a disabled veteran he paid to stand under his umbrella and claim ownership if the cops asked questions.
Yesterday, the city sought to rectify the situation, carrying out a promise to sweep out the vendors. It seems Rossi was collared because he refused to budge; moments before his arrest he told the Post, "Veterans Day is over. They've stopped waving their flags and now it's back to screwing the vet. If this were a law, they'd have been nailing us for it every day before this. They made this up this morning. This is the first time in 30 years I'm going to get towed."
Other veterans are now worried about the citywide repercussions of the crackdown. 62-year-old Vietnam vet Leo Morris, Jr. tells the Post he did not watch his buddies die face-down in the muck so this Bloomberg could waltz around town destroying his livelihood: "I was in Vietnam. If I can work in Vietnam, I should be able to work on Fifth Avenue."