BookWars is a CAMERADO production
in association with S.A.I.D Communcations

Produced by Michel Negroponte, James & John Montoya, and Jason Rosette
Written, Directed, Edited, Photographed & Edited by J Rosette
Additional Editing by Greg Janza / Motion Graphics by Eric Schirra
Technical Operator Dennis Muldrow / Associate producer Lee Clark
Additional Editing Services by Field & Frame, Albuquerque, NM
Additional Support by the Playboy Foundation and the Experimental TV Center


Shot on location on the streets of New York 1995-2000
© 2000 J Rosette / Camerado

Other titles by Camerado include:
Lost in New Mexico: the strange tale of Susan Hero * Vuth Learns to Rock
Charlie's Box * Freedom Deal * Crisis



When Rudolph Giuliani was elected Mayor of New York City, he devised a program called Quality of Life. The aim was simple: to clean up the city of New York. What was worth cleaning up was of course subjectively determined by those intent on doing the cleaning.

Besides "unsavory" institutions like porn shops, New York's Quality of Life plan was also designed to control and limit and otherwise get rid of individuals who existed outside of the system, especially those who lived on or made a living on the street.

The first targets were the most visible and also the least organized (and therefore the most defenseless): the homeless and the semi-homeless, ala, the once-ubiquitous squeegee guys.

"Get rid of 'em boys, ship 'em off to Queens!"

Inevitably, street vendors of all sorts were challenged, including street booksellers all over the city--despite their First Amendment Rights.

Many of the booksellers resisted, thanks to pro bono legal assistance and their own petitioning efforts. And in the end, despite some areas of the city being shut down to street bookselling, the booksellers withstood many of the initial challenges that the Mayor's Quality of Life plan presented.

On W4th street, where most of the street booksellers (including myself) were white, the police acted with more restraint unless prompted by an outside complainant. Most of the officers I encountered as a white, "non-threatening" street bookseller were fairly reasonable, and they often admitted they had better things to do then to confront us at our bookstands.

The nearby University considered to street booksellers to be unsightly and incongruent with their corporate image. Thus, they sought to do away with them by applying steady pressure via the local 9th precinct. Using the police to do their bidding, and under the umbrella of the Mayor's Quality of Life program, the University whittled away at the civil liberties of those individuals who made a living selling books on West 4th street and in other areas in its sphere of influence.


In the end it was many of the University's 's own professors and students who signed the petitions we presented at community board meetings in our defense.

LISTEN to the following street booksellers describe their experiences against the antogonistic forces of the city, including wealthy and politically influential institutions such as the University and other local real estate moguls:

  • PeteWhitney - the Bookseller Extraordinaire tells it like it is on W4th. (via RealAudio)
  • Ron Harris - describes his experiences with the cops and the law at his 6th Avenue bookstand. (via RealAudio)
  • Tomas Dunkleth - Slow but thoughtful, and full of surprises. (via RealAudio)