Its hard to advance vendors’ rights when you are always on the defensive! Just as we were battling the Health Department to get bathroom access for our food vendors, now the Parks Department is trying to remove 80% of the artists who sell in NYC parks. We’re tired, but our struggle continues. At our meeting last week, our members agreed that an injury to one of us harms us all!
This issue is rightly getting a lot of attention (NY Times, Boston Globe, and even Art Daily). The City’s spinmeisters are making their usual argument — that the artists are creating “congestion.” And some powerful organizations, like the Daily News and Municipal Arts Society, are buying what Bloomberg is selling. But is anyone actually talking to New Yorkers?
With City Hall becoming more reflective of the actual racial composition of our city, the long-term outlook for street vendors is good. At least “ethnic” papers and reporters get it. Check out this powerful editorial (in English and Spanish) in El Diario last week, and this equally supportive piece by Albor Ruiz in the Daily News, entitled “Why the Raw Deal for Food Vendors?” (although he meant to include all street vendors). By the way, today is election day in NYC. Get out and vote for candidates who support street vendors!
UPDATE: Election over. Non-whites (like new City Council person Margaret Chin, above!) now comprise a majority of City Council for the first time. Just as they make up a majority of our city.
This audio slideshow about NYC immigrant vendors is one of the most touching things we’ve seen in a while. It should be required viewing for every New York politician. And only 38 Youtube hits? Let’s change that. And, please, if you make anything so beautiful and relevant to our work, send SVP the link!
With 2.5 billion (!) people eating it every day, street food is a global phenomenon. Which is why SVP director Sean Basinski flew to Bangkok last weekend for the first-ever Vendy Awards Thailand. Octopus balls? Thai pop stars? Fish nibbling at your feet? The event had everything. Thanks to Jun and the rest of our friends at Liaison Planning for putting it together. Read some coverage (in Japanese) here and see the photos here. BTW, is Bangkok street food the best in the world, as the NY Times claims? It’s damn good. But even if you can’t get to Asia, check out these cool cooking videos and make some yourself.
SVP carried out a successful sidewalk reclaimation in Brooklyn yesterday, with food vendors Hamdy Akl and Mohammed Altaf Hussain declaring “we will not be moved!” What happened? For nearly a month, after a disagreement involving some other vendors nearby, the police undertook a reign of intimidation, harassment, cart confiscation, and unlawful arrests (bravely captured on videotape by Hamdy here and here).
Imagine if every vendor had a big, high-priced law firm to turn to? Things might be different. That is why SVP’s pro bono program matches law firms (some of whom have extra time right now) with our members’ legal cases. It can make a real difference. For example, our friends at O’Melveny & Myers recently represented Luis Murua, a midtown nut vendor, on an appeal at ECB court, where vendors fight their tickets. The accusation? Vending too close to a crosswalk. The fine? $1,000. The decision on appeal? Overturned — Mr. Murua gets his money back. Thanks to Jerri Shick and everyone at O’Melveny for all their help. Oh, and please drop us a line if you want to join our pro bono program.
Board member Soledad Pabon and director Sean Basinski represented SVP at the StreetNet conference in Managua, Nicaragua this week — the first ever meeting for street vendor organizations throughout the Americas. Hosted by the Nicaraguan CTCP (Confederation of Self-Employed Workers), the event was an inspiration and a huge succes. We presented on our work, learned what other groups are doing, networked, and laid the foundation for future collaboration. La lucha continua. Photos here.
The Brooklyn wife-husband team of Yolanda and Fernando Martinez were the big winners at the 2009 Vendy Awards last night — that’s Fernando signing autographs like Derek Jeter (left). Nearly a thousand people came out to Flushing Meadows Park to celebrate street food and the incredible New Yorkers who cook it up every day. Thanks to everyone who made the event possible – it just keeps getting better. To see some press coverage, go to our Vendy Award Facebook page. And check out the photos on the Red Hook Food Vendors new web site, www.redhookfoodvendors.com.
What happens when a city chooses spots for vendors, instead of the vendors choosing themselves? They pick spots where the vendors fail! At least that is what seems to be happening in Toronto, where our friend Marianne Moroney from the Toronto Street Food Vendors Association reports that 3 of the designated 8 vendors from the new “A La Carte” program are already out of business after only a few months. This article in the Toronto Sun is sure generating a lot of interest. Could a similar article be in store for the NYC Green Cart program? We hope not.