Right before Thanksgiving, the Christmas tree vendors descend from Canada to set up shop. Outside the Duane-Reed Pharmacy on 88th st. and Broadway, two Quebecians stack their trees and ornaments in appealing configurations. Pine needles scent the air. A plastic covered lean-to over their live-in-van protects from inclement weather, like tonight's rain, and houses their workshop. Neighbors welcome them as seasonal regulars and greet affectionately. I will follow the story of Stefanie and Sebastian, and hope they have profitable Christmas sales.
Christmas tree vendors need neither permits nor First Amendment protection to sell. They are entitled to what might be called the ''coniferous tree'' exception, adopted by the City Council in 1938 over the veto of Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. The city's administrative code allows that ''storekeepers and peddlers may sell and display coniferous trees during the month of December'' on a city sidewalk without a permit, as long as they have the permission of owners fronting the sidewalk and keep a corridor open for pedestrians.