Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff, two 13 year old boys from Chappaqua’s Seven Bridges Middle School, decided to make some extra money by selling baked goods in their local park. The two young entrepreneurs had dreams of one day opening a restaurant, and sold cupcakes, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispy treats they baked for $1 each in hopes of saving money towards their dream.
Unfortunately, what they received was a cold hard lesson in town bureaucracy, courtesy of elected town board member Michael Wolfensohn and the local police department. The first day that the two teenagers set up their table in a New Castle park, they were approached by Mr. Wolfensohn, who asked if they were raising money for charity. When the boys told him no, he called the police and reported them for operating a business without a license.
New Castle parks require a $1 million insurance liability policy and a fee, ranging from $150 to $350, to sell goods in the park for up to two hours. Permits are given on a case by case basis. When the two 13 year olds could not produce their town permit, the police raided their cookie stand and shut them down.
The boy’s parents were called to the scene. Suzanne Demarchis, mother to one of the boys, said “Kevin was so upset, he was crying all the whole way home. He was worried if he was going to get arrested or have a criminal record.”
The Journal News filed a New York State Freedom of Information Law request for the police report when investigating the story, and discovered that the complainant was a town board member. When contacted about the report and asked why he simply didn’t tell the boys that they needed a license, Mr. Wolfensohn responded “I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to do that. The police are trained to deal with these sorts of issues.”
“I am shocked and sad for the boys. It was such a great idea, and they worked hard at it,” said Laura Graff, Kevin’s mother. “But then some Town Board member decided to get on his high horse and wreck their dreams.” As to whether the boys still have hopes of saving up money for their dreams, Andrew seemed disheartened. “I don’t get too many offers for babysitting, and we live in a development, so shoveling snow is not an option either. We were being entrepreneurs, but now we feel a little defeated.”