Colorful signs filled Manhattan streets on Tuesday afternoon when street vendors from across the five boroughs came together to celebrate their work and call on the city to end the criminalization of workers.
Hundreds of vendors gathered outside of City Hall as part of the Street Vendor Project’s Vendor Power Parade.
Along with celebrating the diversity of the group, Tuesday’s parade was also a way for vendors to raise their voices and call on the City Council to lift the cap on the number of vending permits and licenses.
Since 1981, New York City has put a cap on the number of vendor permits, with a total of 3,000 issued to food carts and trucks year-round and 1,000 seasonally. As a result many vendors now pay up to $25,000 to rent permits on the black market from those previously granted permits for a certain number of years.
“The time is now for the City Council to lift the caps on permits for street vendors,” said Sean Basinki, director of the Street Vendor Project. “We look forward to working with the city to resolve this issue of economic injustice and make it possible for all vendors to work legally.”
Although the streets carts for years have been the source for many immigrants and disabled military veterans to make ends meet, there are some businesses and organization that have voiced their opposition.
According to Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, the carts have created a quality of life issue for the city and he considers them to be the “worst collect of ugly and poorly run” carts in any city in the country.
“We think the current program is a complete and utter disaster,” Biederman said. “Not only on its own but compared to what other cities are doing.”
Some of the issues voiced by those against the lifting of the permit cap include sizes of the carts being too big; “horrendous” appearances; limiting space for pedestrians on streets; bad sanitary practices; competition with local brick and mortar stores; littering; loud generators or dangerous cooking tanks; and loud music being played out of radios or boomboxes.
However, according to Elise Goldin, senior organizer for the Street Vendor Project, vendors are what give the city its diversity and she believes they deserve the recognition for the work they have been doing — in some cases for decades.
She added that although there might be some cases where vendors do not follow sanitary practices, the majority of them want to do the right thing, follow the rules and work legally.
“I think in terms of bad sanitary practices and littering, it’s also really important to say from our project perspective we are not advocating chaos on the street,” she said.