The city's seemingly futile crackdown on counterfeit designer merchandise could get some new teeth if City Councilwoman Margaret Chin has her way. Chin, whose district includes Chinatown, will introduce legislation this week that would make it illegal to buy knockoffs like bogus Louis Vuitton bags. Guilty buyers could face a year in jail or a $1000 fine if caught, and Chin says the heavy penalty is necessary if the city's going to staunch the flow of ripoff merchandise. But how are buyers supposed to know the purse they're buying from the street peddler is fake, and not just the deal of a lifetime?!
Chin's bill simply posits that buyers should know the goods are counterfeit if they're too cheap and being sold in Chinatown, where the city has dubbed one area along Canal the "Counterfeit Triangle." Chin says she'll put up signs all over the neighborhood warning buyers not to support the bootleggers, and guilty customers could only be fined or arrested if caught in the act. She has support in the City Council for the bill, and tells the Post, "We don't want to be known as the place to come to get counterfeit goods." She's holding a press conference at City Hall today to announce the bill.
On the streets of Chinatown, reaction was mixed. Sandy Lui, manager of Optical 88 on Mott and Hester Street (great place to get eyeglass prescriptions filled!), dreamed of a day when people would stop coming into her store looking for knockoff designer frames. But one Staten Island woman, Christine Gambino, told the Post her fake Louis Vuitton handbag cost her just $40, adding, "I'll take a risk and sacrifice to look good and pay less." And a school teacher from Brooklyn, Erma Charles, made the Department of Education proud by explaining that she buys knockoffs even though she knows it's wrong, because, "Everyone steals."