ROTTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) -Panhandling in the town has become much stricter as of August 8. The town board voted to limit when and where certain groups can do so. Pages 41 to 54 of the final agenda go over the ins and outs of the new law.
According to Ryan McCall, an attorney with Tully Rinckey PLLC, a similar panhandling bill was proposed and defeated in 2022 out of Saratoga Springs. The reason being comparing panhandling to freedom of speech.
“This would most likely withstand a first amendment challenge. I think ultimately it’s going to be interesting if this withholds the constitutional test,” said McCall.
To be able to act as a hawker, peddler, or solicitor, those in Rotterdam now have to apply for a license that can be either denied or paid for. From 8a.m. to 8p.m. on weekdays and 9a.m. to 5p.m. on weekends, panhandlers will be allowed in the town. The town board argues that the rules in the law are just to keep residents safe.
“It’s targeted for aggressive situations where somebody approaches you after you’ve ask them not to. If somebody follows you after you’ve said no,” described the board’s attorney with Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP, Courtney Heinel.
Locations such as ATMs, bus stops and private property are off limits. McCall says private property should be constitutionally safe from panhandling, but those public places listed may be challenged. “What’s going to be interesting is the public sidewalk aspect of it. I think its really going to come down to whether or not this is quote on quote, ‘overbroad’ to the point where it restricts free speech.”
The board’s attorney argued for the law saying it was modeled after Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse. Board Member, Samantha Miller-Herrera, voted no in fear of future consequences. “They were brought in court. There was a 1983 action. It required that the municipality spend huge amounts of money on ongoing civil right litigation in federal court. My vote is no.”