There are as many as 20,000 street vendors in New York City — hot dog vendors, flower vendors, t-shirt vendors, street artists, fancy food trucks, and many others. They are small businesspeople struggling to make ends meet. Most are immigrants and people of color. Some are US military veterans who served their country. They work long hours under harsh conditions, asking for nothing more than a chance to sell their goods on the public sidewalk.
Yet, in recent years, vendors have been victims of New York’s aggressive “quality of life” crackdown. They have been denied access to vending licenses. Many streets have been closed to them at the urging of powerful business groups. They receive exorbitant tickets for minor violations like vending too close to a crosswalk — more than any big businesses are required to pay for similar violations.
The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with nearly 2,000 vendor members who are working together to create a vendors’ movement for permanent change. We reach out to vendors in the streets and storage garages and teach them about their legal rights and responsibilities. We hold meetings where we plan collective actions for getting our voices heard. We publish reports and file lawsuits to raise public awareness about vendors and the enormous contribution they make to our city. Finally, we help vendors grow their businesses by linking them with small business training and loans.
The Street Vendor Project is part of the Urban Justice Center, a non-profit organization that provides legal representation and advocacy to various marginalized groups of New Yorkers.