Street vendors from across New York City are getting together next month to unite their voices and ask the city they serve to make a change.
The Street Vendor Project — a membership-based project which is part of the nonprofit Urban Justice Center — is holding a Vendor Power Parade on April 26 outside of 250 Broadway where vendors from the five boroughs will gather to celebrate the diversity of the group but also call for the end of the criminalization of vendors throughout the city.
According to Elise Goldin, senior organizer for the Street Vendor Project, for the past few decades the city has put a cap on the number of vendor permits allowed.
There are a total of 3,000 permits issues to food cart and trucks year-round and 1,000 seasonal — a number which hasn't changed since 1981, reported the New York Daily News.
Because of this many vendors now pay up to $25,000 to rent permits off of the black market system from those who have been granted permits for a certain amount of years.
“The parade is to celebrate vendors and to demand the legalization of the work in the street,” Goldin said. “[The vendors] deserve the right to be working without buying into the black market and without fear of being ticketed.”
Goldin added that for some vendors the cost of the permit is not a problem, but the majority — who are undocumented or of lower income — the permits are just too much. Vendors also run the risk of being arrested or ticketed while on the street because some decide to work without any permits or licenses.
The city also knows that vendors purchase the black market permits, according to Goldin, and it really is the only way for thousands to be able to work on the streets.
“We’re really about uniting all vendors and showing that the current system does not work for anybody,” she said. “What is happening in the city with street vendors is not fair.”
In hopes of making their voices heard to the City Council, who must tackle on the issue first, the group of vendors — ranging from food to merchandise merchants — will march at 2:30 p.m. in front of 250 Broadway on April 26.
The group will call for the ending of the black market, for those who are currently working on the street to be given permits and to change the laws ending alienation of the vendors.
“We really want to show the city that vendors are people to be celebrated, vendors show the diversity of the city,” Goldin said. “End that black market and actually bring all of the vendors into regulation, which will make the city a safer place.”
Hulya Sevindik will be one of the many merchants taking the street next month during the parade and hopes the city will listen to their pleas for change.
“I want the city to be a little bit nicer with us because we are serving the people,” Sevindik said. “I want the city to listen to us, do something for us.”
The Turkish native has been working alongside her husband in Manhattan for the past 14 years selling fruits and vegetables on 14th Street.
And although she said she feels great working with her husband and being able to interact with the customers, having to pay thousands for a black market permit makes it impossible to have a life.
She added that her and her husband refrain from buying themselves clothes and shoes in order to purchase their 14-year-old son something and often times have difficulty making rent. In 2003, Sevindik was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“We cannot enjoy our lives, we cannot do anything. Nothing is left over, I’m trying my best to bring some money home. I’m trying my best to have my home,” she said. “If we are lucky we are paying the rent, we are having a very difficult time.”
The couple rent a permit for a total of six months and often times cannot rent the permit again because they do not have enough money to purchase one.
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Sevindik added that along with getting rid of the black market, she hopes the city will revisit the number of permits given out and grant one-year permits in which everyone must renew per year.
“I want the city to do something that is fair for everybody, not only for us,” she said. “Everybody is having difficulty.”
The Street Vendor Project also started a petition online where people can show their support for lifting the cap on vendor licenses and permits.