Friday, December 29, 2006

NYT on the Randolph-Sheppard Act

See this "Greenwich Journal." It begins:

When the first train of the day rumbles through town at 4:45 a.m., Gregory Maher is usually there to see that commuters do not board empty-handed. Armed with pots of freshly brewed coffee, he greets the bleary-eyed by name and sends them off fortified with their favorite newspapers and morning snacks.

If they are fumbling for change when their train rolls in, an honor system is observed. “They can pay me whenever,” said Mr. Maher, 24.

Save for the cappuccino maker, it is a scene that has existed as long as suburbia. But after eight years serving the hedge fund traders, chief executives and other New York-bound professionals who stream through the station in the Old Greenwich neighborhood each morning, Mr. Maher was notified this month that he, his wife, Mary, and their 82-year-old helper, John Edward Kennedy, had lost the coffee concession and must leave by Jan. 12.

Greenwich town officials said they had little choice but to displace the Mahers in favor of a blind entrepreneur, a third-generation Greenwich man named Adam Fairbanks, who will take over the concession. They cited little-known but longstanding federal and state laws that give preference to the blind when it comes to operating concessions on government property.

Mr. Fairbanks will join 45 fellow graduates of a state training program who run cafeterias, snack bars, newsstands and gift shops on government-owned property in Connecticut.

“I don’t happen to think it’s a very good law,” said James Lash, a Republican who is Greenwich’s first selectman. “But it is the law.”

The Mahers, a Milford couple who say they use the roughly $200 a day that they make on the early morning Metro-North crowd to help support their two children, are fighting their removal. They have collected 500 signatures on a petition and that sits under a bulletin board decorated with snapshots of the family. They have hired a lawyer to research the 70-year-old federal law and a parallel 61-year-old state law to see if they have any recourse, and they are speaking out on what they see as the inequity of having their business taken from them when customers testify that they are doing a good job.


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