Push-Carts Cause Controversy Between Coop and Landlord

The Harvard Coop and one of Cambridge's biggest developers are locked in a push-cart war.

The Coop rents a building from Louis F. DiGiovanni on the corner of Brattle and Palmer Streets, where they house their book and record departments.

But DiGiovanni is now renting a portion of that sidewalk next to the building to a company which has subleased it to a number of push-cart vendors.

James A. Argeros, the Coop's general manager, says the push-carts "clog things up." And he is taking DiGiovanni to court to do something about it.

A Middlesex Superior Court judge ruled in May that DiGiovanni could not proceed with his plans to build a concrete and glass structure on the sidewalk where the push-carts are located. He said such a structure would impede pedestrian traffic.

Now the Coop is trying to get a judge to rule that the push-carts, which DiGiovanni put there after his unsuccessful attempt building attempt, must go. Officials there claim they have a right to the space under the terms of its lease.

But the judge, Edward M. Ginsburg, has rejected this reasoning, though he has delayed a decision on whether the pushcarts can stay until their effect on pedestrians can be ascertained.

Stephen DiGiovanni, a spokesman for his father's firm, says that he can not see what the Coop has to complain about. "If anything, it's brought more people to the Coop's display window. My question to the Coop is how that disrupts their business," he says.

At this time there are four push carts and one hotdog stand on the sidewalk. One vendor, who did not want to be identified, says he does not see "what the big deal is."

However, the Coop, in a statement, charges that the landlord has installed roll-down steel doors to protect the pushcarts. Because DiGiovanni controls these doors, it says, he controls access to the sidewalk, thus impeding pedestrians.