“This is class warfare!” exclaimed Kenya Romain, 19, of St. Albans, Queens.
Romain wasn’t referring to Republican attempts to curtail Medicaid or Social Security, but city Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s proposed legislation to levy fines of up to $1,000 on the purchasers of knock-off accessories and other fake goods — and maybe face up to a year in jail.
Romain had a bag in the battle. Namely, a fake Louis Vuitton dangling from her shoulder that her mother bought on Jamaica Avenue. Should her mom be jailed for her shopping faux pas, said Romain, “it would really be hard on us.”
Proponents of toughening laws governing counterfeit apparel, electronics and other goods argue that the crackdown is needed to safeguard intellectual property, prevent the exploitation of child labor, and level the playing field for law-abiding merchants. They say bootlegs cost NYC up to $1 billion annually in lost taxes.
But for many low-income people, an attack on their “Channel, Prana and Furberry” is yet another attack on them.
Poor people want high-status bags — or facsimiles thereof — to have “their own little Hollywood in the ’hood,” as Jilani Hakim, a midtown purse vendor, explained. Hakim, who lives in Bedford Stuyvesant, said minorities as well as tourists would be disproportionately targeted by law enforcement should the NYPD have to enforce such a law.
People who can’t afford high-status items are made to feel inferior, and no one wants to feel bad, philosophized Hakim. If designers priced their items realistically, fewer people would be motivated to buy fakes, he said, adding, “nobody bootlegs Baby Phat because you can buy that.”
Indeed. Monique Samuels, 31, a home health-care aide from Riverdale, strolled midtown yesterday dressed head-to-toe in authentic Baby Phat.
She had snagged her $108 bag at Marshall’s for a mere $20.
“If more designer merchandise was more affordable, people would not buy knockoffs,” she said.