NEW YORK (PIX11) – Street vendors marched throughout lower Manhattan on Thursday morning, demanding that the city legalize their businesses.
Mobile food vending licenses are capped at 5,100, and more were supposed to be issued back in July after the City Council passed legislation last year allowing nearly 450 permits to be released in the next 10 years.
“We need a total reform,” said Mohamad Attia, managing director of Street Vendor Project. “We need to make sure that the local law that passed last year is implemented and we want to make sure to see the new permits.”
Street Vendor Project says the delay will force many to the black market. The group estimates there are 20,000 street vendors throughout New York City, with 90 percent being immigrants.
One Hispanic immigrant woman who only wished to be identified by her first name, Paulina, has been selling churros for six years and makes about 80 dollars daily.
“I’ve definitely been fined,” Paulina said. “I’ve gotten tickets. I’ve also been arrested. I just want a permit. I just want to be able to work without fearing any kind of agents or inspectors or police. I just want to be able to sell my goods.”
The vendors say they also want civilian oversight of enforcement as opposed to police officers.
They’re also asking for more legal vending locations. Sammy Saleh’s family runs a food cart in Times Square which does have a permit, but he was ticketed more than 10 times this summer. The cart has been in the family for 15 years, but the installation of bollards does not allow him to park there now. The cart was seized by the NYPD.
“We’re not criminals,” Saleh said. “Selling gyros and hot dogs is not illegal. Selling drugs [are] illegal. Times Square is full of problems. Food vendors are not one of them.”
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene oversees the licensing, and a spokesperson tells PIX11 News:
“We are working to finalize the rules, and applications will go out after the rules go into effect. The process is behind schedule, partly because we want to be responsive to the public comments we received on the proposed rules and give this feedback the deliberation it deserves. We are working as quickly as we can.”
The vendors are also asking for a sector to be created within the department of Small Business Services so that they can legally navigate street vending.