A game fraught with danger

Guyana Chronicle
October 19, 2000

THE group of vendors that Tuesday moved under the condemned building in Georgetown to sell may be trying to make a point in their continuing dispute over territorial rights with the City Council.

They want to be allowed to resume selling on Regent Street until the usual busy Christmas season but the City Council, finally armed with the order of the court it had for years sought to keep sellers off the pavements, is not budging.

No sidewalk vending on Regent Street, it insists.

The appeal by the vendors against the court order is yet to be heard, so an imaginative group opted to take up quarters under the building at the corner of Regent and Wellington Streets that is on the verge of collapsing.

The City Council should have dismantled that building a long time ago - it had after all condemned the structure as posing a danger to citizens.

But the dilapidated building remained, housing some daring souls living in the upper flat.

Now it is a refuge of sorts for a band of sellers who may be trying to make the point that the authorities had better allow them back on Regent Street or be prepared to shoulder the blame if the old building collapses on their heads.

That is the clear and present danger.

Those living there would by now know every nook and cranny of the old building and have probably devised escape chutes in the event of a collapse.

But a sudden increase in the population would be bound to put additional pressure on the shaky contraption and there would be casualties if this `new mall' comes tumbling down on a busy shopping day.

The City Council is already saying it would not shoulder any blame if this happens.

"The City Council wishes to make it clear that those who occupy and those who attempt to purchase under the building in question are doing so at their own risk", a statement declared yesterday.

The council says it is proceeding with alternative arrangements for the pavement and storefront sellers displaced by the court order.

Some 86 of them are expected to take up stalls on Orange Walk and Bourda Street, between Regent and Charlotte Streets by Monday, the council also reported yesterday.

The argument of those seeking to stay on Regent Street is that they can do better business there than anywhere else.

While they like everybody else have commitments and have to earn money to pay their bills, opening up shop under a condemned building is not showing good business sense.

It may be a ploy to put pressure on the City Council to relent and allow them back on Regent Street.

But it is an option fraught with much danger and it is up to the authorities to find a way out of this hazardous situation.

The City Council said the City Engineer's Department some time ago condemned the building "and deemed it unsafe and dangerous for human habitation."

The owner did not demolish the "offending structure" and the City Council now has another hot potato to handle.

There can be precious little shelter under a condemned building for those who ought not to be allowed to do business on the pavements of a major city street and it is in the interest of all concerned to step up the search for an acceptable all-round solution.

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