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Discourtesy and Disrepect

19 Oct 2013

Remember what we wrote a couple weeks ago about vendors and videotaping the police? Well, one brave ice cream vendor did capture his encounter this summer with an especially rude NYPD officer. It’s pretty powerful.

We wrote a blog post about it, posted it on Youtube and it went viral, getting picked up by various web sites and papers around the world and making the nightly news. Apart from raising attention about the shocking way vendors are disrespected, hopefully the video will help spur reforms at the higher levels of the NYPD.


Vendors assert right to record

2 Oct 2013

Because vendors are often accused of peccadillos like vending from a table an inch too high, we train our members every day in how to make photos or videos of their interactions with police. That’s often the only way the tickets will get dismissed. And it’s not just us –  there is a whole CopWatch movement that aims to record police actions and thereby hold them accountable.

But easier said that done! Grabbing your iphone and turning it on the police is difficult for anyone to do, especially immigrant vendors who are vulnerable to repeat abuse. Often the officers don’t like it. And sometimes they even arrest you, which is what SVP director Sean Basinski discovered last month when he recorded a vendor/police interaction. To bring attention to this issue (and one fairly easy solution — requiring the police to wear body cameras, as other cities do) we held a press conference today in front of the Midtown North Precinct where Sean was arrested. As the police looked on from across the street, vendors spoke about their experiences and gave the NYPD notice that they should expect much more filming in the future.

Who’s the King?

13 Jun 2013

People still ask, “the Vendy Awards – that’s you guys?” Heck yes. Who else was promoting mobile vendors years before the Kogi truck was even a vision in Roy Choi’s head? SVP started the Vendys in 2005 to demonstrate that some of the best chefs in the world work on the street. After years of growth, the event now funds much of our yearly budget. And if that was not enough, the Vendys have become a vehicle for us to collaborate with vendor groups across the country.

Last weekend’s 3rd Annual Philly Vendys, held in beautiful and historic Penn Treaty Park in conjunction with the Food Trust, were a huge success. The main category winners were Nabil and Hined Akkeh (left), Syrian-born owners of the King of Falafel, who have been serving up delicious Middle Eastern food near Philadelphia City Hall for 25 years. Elevating the hard work of people like Nabil and Hined is what the Vendys are all about. Next up is Saturday, September 7th in Brooklyn — get your tickets here.


DOT evicts vendors

17 May 2013

Recently, the NYC Department of Transportation has unveiled an exciting new “bike share” program, similar to those that have been successful in Washington DC, Paris, and other cities. This is exciting for street vendors — anything that makes the sidewalks safer and the air cleaner is good for vendors, who have to breathe car exhaust and diesel fumes all day.

Just one problem: DOT did not pay any mind to vendors who would be displaced by the bike share stations! On Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan, five carts (employing 15 families) came to work one morning to find this (photo, left) in their spots. Bikes are good, but they should not displace immigrant small business owners who have no place else to go. So far we’ve asked for meetings, held a press conference, made a video, and done a picket outside DOT headquarters. All to get a bike docking station moved five feet!  We’ll keep fighting until city planners and bureaucrats think about the marginalized groups, like vendors, they are affecting with their decisions!


Victory. Thank you.

9 May 2013

Victory does not come easy. But perseverance pays off. After years of fighting against Mayor Bloomberg and his $1,000 fines on hard-working street vendors, we won. By a final City Council vote of 44-3, the maximum vendor fine for minor offenses was reduced to $500. Lesser fines will also decrease, since the city will now penalize as repeat offenders only those who repeat the same offense.

As Hugh Hogan from the North Star Fund recognized, this was a historic victory for working people and immigrants in New York City. Though we did not get everything we wanted, we won great respect for our unity, advocacy, and tenaciousness. We move toward the future. For now, thanks to everyone who worked so hard to help make this campaign a success.

Vendors are (mostly) immigrants!

3 May 2013

More than 90% of NYC street vendors are immigrants, so our community has a huge stake in the immigration reform debate currently brewing in Washington. While we may not be in the room with the unions, the chambers of commerce, and the “gang of 8,” we can still have a big presence in the streets. So we have. We marched on Washington last month and rallied at the May Day festivities in NYC with many of our friends and allies. We’ve also talked to many of our members about how not to get scammed by “immigration lawyers” during this hopeful time.

We’ve also been throwing our support behind the exciting bill, introduced by Council Member Danny Dromm, that would give all NYC residents (citizen, green card holder, or nothing at all) the right to vote in municipal elections. This bill would remake the political map in NYC and give a voice to millions (?) of those currently voiceless. Let’s do it!


Rally Against Citibike Eviction, 4/25/13

26 Apr 2013

The NYC Department of Transportation’s new Citibike bike share program evicted five SVP members from their spot on Liberty Street, with no prior notice. We organized those vendors, and other SVP members, to come speak out against this abuse. The event was well covered by Gothamist, El Diario, WBAI, WCBS and others.

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Close to victory!

21 Feb 2013

Big, big news! Today we got word that Speaker Christine Quinn, who we have been pestering forever to call a vote on our bills to lower the $1,000 tickets, is ready to do so! And in fact she herself is now supporting our cause, making it very likely that the bills will be voted into law next week. After more than five years of work, and more than two years of legislative advocacy, we are getting very close to victory.

We learned today that Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t support vendors, and will veto the bills, but we kinda knew that. This from the guy who said that “nobody is sleeping on the streets.”

Thanks, Speaker Quinn !!

21 Feb 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2013                CONTACT: Diana Lee, 646-200-5322,

 Street Vendor Project Applauds Speaker Quinn for Supporting Lower Vendor Fines

Following SVP’s Multi-Year Campaign,City Council Will Vote on Bill Lowering Maximum Fine to $500

New York, NY – Following Speaker Quinn’s announcement today that she will prepare to pass a bill to lower fines for street vendors, the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center released the following statement:

“Following years of organizing to lower the crippling fines imposed on street vendors, we are thrilled to have the support of Speaker Quinn for a bill that will have a huge impact on the smallest of New York City’s small business owners,” said Sean Basinski, Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. “Street vendors are hardworking men and women who serve their local communities and make this city great, and they deserve the support of city government. Lowering the maximum fine will be a major step in protecting vendors’ rights, and we look forward to celebrating the bill’s passage in the City Council.”

Under Mayor Bloomberg, street vendors have routinely received fines of as much as $1,000 for minor infractions unrelated to health and safety, such as being inches too close to a doorway or having a vending license in their pocket instead of around their necks. The Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center has worked for years to lower these fines that often cause vendors to lose their livelihoods. SVP recently launched a campaign with hundreds of vendors across the city who placed flyers on their carts to call on Speaker Quinn to lower the maximum fines.

This is great news for all vendors,” said Aziz Rahmat, who sells coffee and donuts from a cart on 31st Street and Seventh Avenue, near Penn Station. “Thanks to Speaker Quinn for moving this forward.”


The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with more than 1,500 active vendor members who are working together to win power and respect. 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.

Help Sully on Feb 15th!

2 Feb 2013

Help Sully Garzon pay her $1,000 ticket !

When:                Friday, February 15, 2013 @ 7 – 9 pm

Where:             Jimmy’s No. 43, 43 East 7th Street, Manhattan

$10 gets you all-the-tamales-you-can-eat. $4 craft beer specials. All proceeds go to Sully.

Sully Garzon is from Guayaquil, Ecuador. After immigrating to the U.S. in 2001, she worked in factory, then a restaurant in Queens, then got her food vending license. She sells roasted nuts on Lower Broadway, six or seven days a week. She lives in Queens with her son; her two daughters are back in Ecuador. In December, she got a $1,000 decision for positioning her cart less than 20 from a store entrance. The ticket said Sully was 17 feet away. She said that the police measured from the building line, not the door. The judge didn’t believe her.

The Street Vendor Project is working to pass legislation at City Council lowering $1,000 fines against licensed vendors (like Sully) to $250 max for minor violations like this. For more information, visit

Check our the Facebook invite here:!/events/370940346336960/

More to come!