A street vendor hoping to legally sell her dumplings on New York City streets set up shop outside of 250 Broadway on Wednesday in hopes of enticing council members’ stomachs and support.
“I’ve never served a council member before,” said Doris Yao, 58, from Jackson Heights, who operates a dumpling cart on Astor Place under a permit she bought off of the black market.
"I wish I had a permit to open a second cart, and that all food truck owners had a permit," Yao said.
Yao is a member of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, a group that advocates for street vendors and has been pushing the city to lift the cap of the number of food vendor permits given out in a year.
After enticing council members with dumplings, Street Vendor Project members handed out copies of a new report from the Institute for Justice, which found that street vendors added 17,960 jobs in the city in 2012, generated $192.3 million in wages, $292.7 million in value added and $71.2 million in local, state and federal taxes.
“I want to review the bill,” Council member Jumaane Williams said. “I’m concerned with people being able to take care of their families and make a decent living.”
Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project said they wanted Yao to serve up dumplings for council members to put a face to the issue.
“Most of us have never spent the whole day as a street vendor,” Basinki said. “The food angle — it’s delicious, but it’s also the immigrant story reflected in New York City, the hard work … vendors don’t get recognized. Nobody asks the to sign their picture, that’s what we do.”
“The Speaker is keeping all options open, including lifting the cap entirely,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spokeswoman Robin Levine in response to the new report.
"The report issued by the Street Vendors proves what we already know: street vendors provide jobs, support immigrant communities and boost the local economy," Council member Ydanis Rodriguez said in an email to Metro. "Chambers of Commerce and BIDS must come to the table and understand the benefit street vendors provide to the local economies of our city. With everyone at the table we can ensure the path forward for vendors is the strongest it can be."
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues 2,800 food cart permits a year, which is the number set by the city’s administrative code and City Council.
A number of year-to-date violations was not provided by the health department by deadline.
"Everyone agrees the street vending permit system is broken and reliant on a tangle of unevenly enforced rules that make the system unfair for everyone: the small business owner, the pedestrian and vendors themselves,” NYC Business Improvement District Association Co-Chairs Ellen Baer and Michael Lambert said in a statement. “But pinning the ills of the system on the permit cap dramatically oversimplifies the issue, and today’s report fails to make a compelling case to New Yorkers that opening the floodgates to unlimited vending on our streets is the best way to fix a complex system. It's time to have a serious conversation about a path forward that works for everyone."