A local resident who frequents the shops and restaurants on Larchmont Blvd. says the number of solicitors and street canvassers lining the shopping district is becoming unbearable.
“I find it increasingly annoying to be solicited daily by ‘feet on the street’ people asking me to support various organizations,” says S. Lucerne resident Matthew Swearman.
“It’s gotten to the point where you can’t make your way down either side of Larchmont without being solicited several times in just one visit to the street.”
Swearman says what bothers him the most is how relentless they are, noting that no matter how many times he visits his local shops, the solicitors are there, hitting him up for money or signatures sometimes several times in the same day.
“What can be done to prohibit this kind of solicitation?” Swearman asked.
To get an answer, the Chronicle turned to the president of the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District (BID), Tom Kneafsey.
“The street canvassers are a real nuisance in Larchmont and we have looked into how to get them off the street,” said Kneafsey, “But there seems to be no way to have them removed because of First Amendment rights.”
Kneafsey said the issue is a frustration for local storeowners “as it most certainly has an impact” on their business.
In recent weeks, solicitors on Larchmont Blvd. have ranged from LGBT and animal-rights organizations to anti-development supporters, even Hasidic Jews can be found on Friday afternoons seeking to reconnect non-religious Jews with their faith.
At a Windsor Square Association meeting last month, Board member Angeline Szentgyorgyi brought up the issue, sharing similar frustrations with the group. To get a better idea of her perspective — as a 14-year resident of S. Bronson Ave. — this reporter contacted Ms. Szentgyorgyi to request that she elaborate.
“I feel that the solicitors have become larger in number and more aggressive,” she says, adding, “I worry it will change the experience of walking down the sidewalks of Larchmont Village.”
Szentgyorgyi is quick to point out that she recognizes that street canvassers often represent “very worthy causes;” nevertheless, she doesn’t like to be intruded upon when walking down the “main street” of her neighborhood.
“It’s to the point that I’ll cross traffic just to avoid them.”
Aside from making Larchmont Blvd. a less pleasant place to visit, Szentgyorgyi says an abundance of solicitors on the street raises another concern: safety for elderly residents.
“We have a lot of senior residents that already have to navigate busted sidewalks; the last thing they need is an obstacle course of street canvassers. I worry about them.”