Sidewalks throughout New York City turn into temporary little Christmas forests every year around the holidays as tree vendors set up shop. It's pure seasonal magic. But thanks to an obscure 1938 law, the sale of Christmas trees on NYC streets is only legal in December.

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The law has roots in 1938, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia mounted the original War on Christmas. It started as a crackdown on largely immigrant-run street vendors, requiring them to obtain nearly impossible licenses to peddle their wares en plein air. Pretty much none were issued. Which meant that, come December, Christmas trees and the magic they bring with them virtually disappeared from New York City streets. Humbug!

In response, city council went over the grinch of a mayor's head and enacted the Coniferous Tree Exception, which allowed tree vendors to sell their Douglas Firs and the like on sidewalks, so long as they have permission from store owners. No license necessary. But this ordinance only applies to the month of December.

So the reason we're talking about this ordinance today, other than the obvious seasonal time-peg here, is that the sale of Christmas trees on the street recently angered another a real Scrooge of a real estate developer by the name of Donald Zucker. When Wisconsin-based Evergreen Stand popped up in front of his West 15th Street high rise on November 24, Zucker was not having it. He asked the vendors to kindly move down the street and when they refused, he did the American thing and sued them, complaining the stands clog up foot traffic and take up parking spaces. The horror. Fortunately a Manhattan judge wouldn't even hear the case because the owners of the Evergreen Stand couldn't be found.

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And now, thanks to that old 1938, Evergreen Stand and its tree-peddling brethren are all operating within the law. At least for the next 31 days. [NY Post, New York Times]