QUEENS, N.Y. (PIX11) – In just a decade, Corona Plaza has evolved from an ordinary street along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens into one of New York City’s more bustling pedestrian spaces and popular food destinations.
But the several dozen – predominantly unlicensed – Mexican, Central, and South American street food vendors who do business there daily say they’ve had enough. They say Department of Sanitation workers, and by association, Mayor Eric Adams’ administration are using “unjust” and heavy-handed enforcement actions against their stalls – hurting their businesses.
“The income that was supposed to come in to pay rent has not come in because they have not been working for six days,” street vendor Ana Maldanado said through a translator.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and state Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz acknowledge the plaza has experienced crowding and cleanliness issues. However, they also argue the vendors should be able to work there legally.
“The city has dragged its feet on giving licenses out. This is an indictment on our city,” said Richards.
Ocasio-Cortez accused the Sanitation Department of acting cruelly to the vendors.
“They confiscated property that those small business owners could not afford to lose. The city took away umbrellas and fans in the middle of a heat wave. That is cruelty,” the lawmaker said.
Cruz spoke to her own personal experiences as a child.
“My mother used to sell tamales at one point just to make ends meet. And when you have stories like that of the kid of the tamalera, who’s now an elected official – you have to think about the possibility that you’re denying these kids and these families to thrive,” she said.
However, not everyone supports the roughly 80 vendors at Corona Plaza.
“There has to be a better way. I am not against the vendors, but this is too much,” one resident who attended the rally said.
Another young woman, who said her family owns a bodega, demanded more organization among the vendors.
“People try to sleep, and what do we have? A crowded area? This is not fair to us,” she said.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office referred PIX11’s inquiries to the Department of Sanitation, which said:
“As part of the Adams Administration’s commitment to the health, safety, accessibility, and cleanliness of our streets, the Department of Sanitation engaged in vending inspections and limited enforcement in Corona Plaza…This is a location where recent visits showed significant issues with cleanliness and pedestrian access. We remind all vendors of their legal responsibilities not to leave trash or merchandise behind…”
The mayor’s office did not respond to PIX11’s question regarding raising the cap on vendor licenses.