Budding young Internet entrepreneurs who sell merchandise on eBay, Craig’s List or Facebook should be able to meet their customers at a public place, like a police precinct, to complete the business transaction instead of having a total stranger come to their home.
That’s the intriguing idea being promoted by two Brooklyn buddies, Steven Patzer and Andrew Windsor.
The two friends, who recently graduated from Baruch College, are trying to convince the City Council to pass a bill to create so-called Internet Protection Exchange Locations (IPEL) in a select number of police precinct station houses around the five boroughs.
Under the bill, sponsored by Democratic Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island and Gravesend, the selected precincts would provide a safe haven for Internet business owners and their customers.
If the buyer and seller agree to a business deal, like the sale of a laptop computer or a pair of sneakers, they could meet at a precinct station house to exchange the cash and merchandise.
“This is important to the younger community. There are a lot of young entrepreneurs out there and this is how we do business,” said Patzer, who earned a B.A. in public affairs and is politically active in his Mill Basin neighborhood as vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Young Democrats.
Treyger introduced the bill in 2017 and re-introduced it earlier this year. Councilmember Alan Maisel, a Democrat who represents Mill Basin and Canarsie, is the co-sponsor. Patzer and Windsor are busy lobbying for the bill’s passage but the two started promoting the idea of safe zones even before the legislation was drafted.
The idea came out of personal experience, according to Patzer. “I was out there doing these exchanges myself and I couldn’t believe we don’t have something like that here,” he told this newspaper.
“Dozens exist already across the United States and one exists in New York State, in Geneseo,” Windsor said. Windsor hails from Bath Beach and is currently an intern at the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C. He will attend the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in the fall.
Internet protection exchange locations have been set up in Columbus, Ohio, Fairfax, Virginia and Mobile, Alabama, among other cities.
Having a police station serve as the backdrop for a business deal would increase privacy and safety for Internet business owners and customers, according to Patzer, who said a friend of his was robbed by someone he met for a sneaker sale. The “customer” grabbed the seller’s iPhone and fled.
Windsor said he heard of a case in which an Internet business owner was robbed in Times Square. “It can happen even in a crowded place,” he said.
There are many would-be Internet entrepreneurs who are uncomfortable with the idea of meeting at a total stranger’s house or in a dark alley somewhere to do business, the bill’s advocates said.
Public safety concerns stemming from business exchanges generated online are what made Treyger sponsor the bill, according to his communications director, Eric Faynberg.
“Our society is one in which more and more purchases are made or arranged online, but whether one is pursuing an entrepreneurial dream, or simply looking to rid their home of clutter and make a few extra bucks, no New Yorker should ever have to fear for their safety, their possessions, or their life during a simple financial transaction,” Treyger said when he introduced his legislation.
The creation of safety zones for Internet business would also have a positive effect on police-community relations, according to Windsor.
“It would bring police and the community closer,” he said.
Treyger’s bill has been sent to the council’s Public Safety Committee.