NYC Council Member Levine and Hundreds of Street Vendor Advocates Rally at City Hall for License Expansion, Enforcement Improvements

Hundreds of street vendors and several advocacy groups attended a press conference calling for passage of the Street Vendor Modernization Act (SVMA), which raises the cap on the number of vendor licenses while improving and modernizing the rules and regulations governing the industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
 October 13, 2016

CONTACT: Jake Sporn 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

CITY HALL, NEW YORK –  Today, New York City Council Member Mark Levine held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to formally announce the introduction of the Street Vending Modernization Act  (SVMA), legislation that will reform street vending in New York City and create new enforcement tools.Since the 1980s there have been strict limits on the number of food carts and trucks allowed to vend on New York City streets. This supply-side limitation created a thriving black market in vending permits, which allows incumbent permit holders, many of whom do not vend anymore, to illegally rent their permits for tens of thousands of dollars. At the same time, the rules and regulations for food vending have become complicated and difficult to enforce fairly.

To address these issues, the SVMA will:

  • Double the number of food vendor permits over seven years with 5% of new permits being set aside for veterans and the disabled
  • Create a new dedicated vendor law enforcement unit to make sure vending rules and regulations are followed and applied fairly and consistently
  • Focus initial enforcement efforts on congested areas and around supermarkets
  • Improve compliance by installing street signs on blocks without legal vending, creating an app with a satellite view of legal vending spots, and requiring vendor training
  • Establish a street vendor advisory panel to monitor enforcement and new permit rollouts and to examine and make recommendations for streamlining vendor laws and rules
  • Establish a pilot program to examine methods of maintaining order in congested areas and create model vending zones
  • Establish a pilot program to test the use of public school and other underutilized kitchens for use by food vendors
  • Refine various outdated rules governing food vending

In attendance at the press conference were hundreds of street vendors who rallied loudly and passionately in support of the SVMA.

Also in attendance were several Members of the City Council including Council Members Rafael Salamanca, Eric Ulrich, Margaret Chin, Daneek Miller, and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland; in addition to representatives from the Street Vendor Project, the Business Center for New Americans, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, LatinoJustice, and the North Star Fund.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said: “Street vendors add vitality to our streets and are an untapped economic resource. Street vending serves as an entry point into the City’s economy for low income New Yorkers and has created thousands of jobs, while serving millions of meals from every cuisine imaginable. Yet this vital economic asset has long been ignored and even stifled. The number of food vendor permits has been capped since the 80’s. Street vendors have been targeted with inconsistent enforcement and shaken down by unscrupulous permit holders who currently control access to the limited pool of vending permits.  This legislation will increase opportunities for vendors and reduce the barriers to entry for street vendor entrepreneurs by raising the number of food vending permits while also implementing enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the rules are followed and our public spaces remain safe and vibrant.”

“In an era of relentless proliferation of chain stores all over New York City, street vendors are the ultimate mom and pop shops. But the system in which they have been licensed and regulated has been dysfunctional for years,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “The SVMA is a tremendous step forward in creating thousands of new opportunities for a diverse population of low-income New Yorkers, while also introducing innovative enforcement instruments that benefit the neighborhoods. The establishment of a Street Vendor Advisory Board and the creation of a first-of-its-kind Office of Street Vendor Enforcement will ensure fairness and consistency in the way street vendors are regulated. This progressive package of legislation will enable the stifled street vendor industry to thrive under a streamlined system for the countless New Yorkers who have been kept out of it for too long.”

Sean Basinksi of the Street Vendor Project said, “This bill would be a historic step forward for street vendors across the city. Thousands of low-income workers and entrepreneurs – overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color, but also US military veterans – will have a chance to experience the American Dream of owning their own business.  We are grateful to Council Member Levine, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and all the Council Members who are supporting this reform.”

“Street vendors constitute a vital part of the economic engine and cultural vitality of New York City,” said Natasha Bannan, LatinoJustice PRLDEF Associate Counsel. “Street vending is often an initial entry point for many Latino immigrants into the labor economy to both support their families as well as contribute to the vast cuisine and cultural tapestry that New York City offers. Expanding the number of street vendor permits will only ensure that more have access to economic opportunity while ensuring that regulation of the industry is fair and consistent.”

Yanki Tshering of the Business Center for New Americans said, We applaud the fact that the City Council is taking a serious look at increasing food vendor permits. An increase in the number of permits would provide a critical lifeline to vendors who often pay up to $600 a month for an illegal permit. With permits, they can not only operate legally and use the saving to support their families, but also feel hopeful and optimistic about their future.”

Quenia Abreu of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce said, “street vending offers incredible opportunities for countless women to make a decent living while taking a critical first step in the direction of growing a business, without sacrificing the care they take of their families. Moreover, for formerly incarcerated women street vending is a highly accessible way to reenter the workforce as they rebuild their lives. The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce applauds Council Member Levine’s efforts to increase the number of opportunities women will have to enter the street vending industry and wholeheartedly support the Street Vendor Modernization Act.”

Lena Afridi of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development said, “ANHD supports lifting the caps on permits for street vendors. New York’s street vendors are central to our neighborhoods and communities, providing employment and culturally relevant goods.  In a climate where small businesses routinely face displacement, vendors are among the most vulnerable. Vendors do not have brick and mortar shops for the same reasons many brick and mortar businesses are closing: high cost of rents, gentrification, and harassment. New York’s small businesses and vendors need robust and strong protections to ensure their success. Lifting the caps on permits for street vendors is a necessary part of a larger toolkit for establishing meaningful protections for all small businesses.”

Jennifer Arieta of the North Star Fund said, “the North Star Fund has invested in the organizing efforts of street vendors for over 14 years. The SVMA is a step forward in improving the working conditions of street vendors, particularly immigrant women who are disproportionately impacted by unjust policies. I commend Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Levine, and all of the council members supporting the SVMA for continuing to stand up for workers' rights. After key victories like the IDNYC program and funding for day laborer centers, SVMA is the next opportunity for us to champion immigrants and workers in New York City.”

“Some of New York’s most iconic immigrant-owned businesses have started as street carts, from Yonah Schimmel’s knishes a century ago to The Halal Guys today,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Street vending is a crucial low-cost first rung on the ladder of entrepreneurship. Within a framework of rules that are sensitive to neighborhoods’ needs, we should absolutely be expanding street vending opportunities, modernizing the system of regulations that governs them, and ensuring there is adequate enforcement of the rules.”

State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Queens), said, “Street vendors are a staple of our City. The current system frustrates both, street vendors and brick and mortar retailers, that is why it is imperative we modernize it. It has been 35 years since the City capped the number of street-vending permits, and this policy resulted in a black market that made the industry ineffective. Because of the situation that occurs in my district, especially along Roosevelt Avenue, I introduced a bill in Albany calling for the formation of the Street Vendor Policy Commission, and it would evaluate, among other issues, lifting the caps on permits, and establishing a grade letter system for carts similar to that of restaurants. I want to applaud Council Member Levine for his work to lift the caps on the permits and bringing the problems with the industry finally to the City Council after years and years of inaction. I am sure these efforts, alongside the Street vendor Projects and all those involved, will bring the industry into the 21st century.”

“Street vendors are small businesses, and what we are aiming to do through this legislation is bring equity to these businesses,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “The current system is not working, and with so many of our vendors either immigrants or veterans, I’m proud to work with Council Member Levine on this legislation.”

Council Member Margaret Chin said: “‎Street vendors are an integral part of our Cityscapes and embody the entrepreneurial spirit that continues to define New York. This legislative package seeks to bring this vital economic sector into the 21st century by introducing fairness and increased opportunity for these neighborhood entrepreneurs, while ensuring order on our City’s streets. I am particularly pleased that my bills to allow ill or incapacitated street vendors to transfer their license to a family member‎, and to allow vendors to sell flowers during the Asian Lunar Year, are included in this comprehensive legislative package. No vendor should fear financial hardship or even arrest by simply trying to make a decent living for themselves and their families. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Levine, and rest of my Council colleagues and advocates for standing up for fairness and increased opportunity for our vendors.”

“This legislation will give more people the opportunity to make a living through street vending while also implementing robust enforcement mechanisms that apply the rules fairly and equally,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich, Chairman of the City Council Committee on Veterans.  “In addition, these bills ensure veterans receive five percent of the additional permits so our large and diverse veterans community enter the food vending industry.”

Council Member Carlos Menchaca said: “New York City’s street vendor rules have been unrealistic and unfair for decades. New regulations must protect communities and allow entrepreneurs to thrive. I support legislation that gives vendors a chance to operate legally, and in reasonable numbers and places.”

Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland  said: “Street vending provides a vital economic service to neighborhoods across the City. Vendors are small business owners from all over the world, and should be a way to break into the market like any other business. However, many must rent a permit on the black market for many thousands of dollars a year and navigate uneven and unpredictable enforcement. This has created disorder across the City. This legislative package will finally lift the cap on vending permits to ease the black market while balancing it with targeted enforcement. In addition, it will recognize that different neighborhoods have different vending needs, and create critical spaces to find locally based solutions that make the best use of our scarce public space.”

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