THE BRONX, N.Y. — New York City’s Sanitation Department came under fire this weekend after videos showed workers throwing away fresh produce from an unlicensed street vendor.
The videos, posted by the Street Vendor Project on Saturday morning, showed at least two DSNY workers tossing individual fruits and vegetables as well as crates of produce into the back of a garbage truck.
The organization, which advocates for street vendors in New York City, alleged that thousands of dollars in fresh produce were trashed.
“In the middle of a pandemic, in the Bronx where 1 in 5 don’t have enough to eat, @NYPDnews, @NYCSanitation trashed a business, destroying produce in a food desert. This family is just trying to run a small business, and sell affordable fruits & veggies,” the Street Vendor Project said in a tweet. “The vendor is clearly a beloved member of her community. Neighbors crowded around her, calling for the abuse to stop. Thousands of dollars worth of oranges, tomatoes, and other fruits [were] trashed. Taken from an immigrant woman entrepreneur, already hard hit by the pandemic.”
An official with one of the involved agencies told PIX11 News on Sunday the sanitation workers had no choice but to trash the produce due to New York City regulations and protocol regarding fresh food.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection was issuing a violation to the unlicensed vendor when they abandoned the items, the official said. The NYPD called in DSNY to dispose of the crates of produce left behind when the vendor failed to return, according to DCWP.
City law states agencies should attempt to donate confiscated fresh food items, however, a Department of Health representative must first certify the food is safe.
The official said DSNY had to trash the produce because the chain of custody of the food could not be verified as safe to consume, but the workers were forced to leave after a crowd of angry residents gathered at the scene.
When the workers returned later in the day, most of the food had been removed from the location by unknown individuals, the official said.
A spokesperson for the Sanitation Department called the situation unfortunate.
“This video shows a small portion of an unfortunate situation, where abandoned material needed to be disposed of for the safety of the community. The Department of Sanitation is committed to our mission of keeping streets and neighborhoods safe, clean, and healthy,” the spokesperson said.
Still, the video sparked outrage on social media and quickly went viral. A rally was held Sunday to condemn the city’s actions and call for less restrictions on street vendors.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection told PIX11 on Sunday it would work with the involved city agencies to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“The results of this multi-agency vending enforcement are not in line with the city’s policies. DCWP and its sister agencies who assist with confiscations when necessary will work together to ensure this type of wastefulness does not happen again,” the spokesperson said.
The NYPD directed PIX11 to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for comment on the incident.
The Street Vendor Project’s deputy director spoke with the PIX11 Morning News on Tuesday about their fight for permit reform and a new GoFundMe set up for the Bronx vendor: