Any progressive Mayor who claims to stand up for immigrants and small business owners needs to support street vendors. Sadly, we still don’t know Mayor de Blasio’s stance on Intro 1303. His administration said they would be done with their study by January 1, but here we are in April, and guess what? No study.
So last week we attended a town hall in Corona, Queens to ask the Mayor himself. SVP member Evelia raised her hand and asked the Mayor what was up. His response was somewhat disappointing, but we are hopeful that with some education and advocacy from the Council, and a bit more pressure, he will agree that it is better to legalize vendors than keep arresting them!
To demonstrate our resolve, a few dozen SVP members lined up outside City Hall yesterday to request vending permits from the Mayor himself (at least a cardboard cut-out of him!). It was moving to hear what vendors would say to the Mayor himself. And inspiring that several Council Members came to support us. Check out the photos and the press we received in Spanish and Chinese.
Campaigns can take a long time to win. The key is to stay patient while working tenaciously every day to get one step closer to the goal.
One person who worked tenaciously every day on the #LiftTheCaps campaign was vendor Claudia Lopez, who passed away one year ago this week. On Monday, we gathered at her old vending spot in Corona to remember Claudia and also call attention to the fact that thousands of other vendors are still waiting for the city to take action. Thanks to all who attending this poignant event, coverage of which is here and here and here.
With an anti-immigrant president, many street vendors — and not just vendors! — are justifiably scared. In New York, many vendors are undocumented, and just as many are Muslim — two groups Trump has singled out. Due to their frequent contact with the criminal justice system, vendors are particularly vulnerable during these scary new times.
However, vendors are not just feeling scared — they are organizing. On November 21st we participated in a Sunset Park rally organized by Council Member Carlos Menchaca. On December 2nd, we took part in the Jackson Heights “Hate Free Zone” rally. And yesterday — Inauguration Day — we stood with other NY Worker Center Federation groups to launch Freedom Cities, a worker-led response to Trump’s agenda. We will continue to be at the forefront of organizing, without fear, to advance diversity, inclusivity, and peace.
Guadalupe is a wife, mother, and mobile food vendor in Brooklyn. She’s worked jobs ranging from housekeeper to attendant at a dry cleaners. But commuting for hours every day at jobs she didn’t love prevented her from seeing the very people she was doing it for: her family.
So she decided to become her own boss. She began selling tamales door-to-door six days a week, sometimes going to bed around 2AM and waking up at 4AM to continue preparing for the upcoming day. It was hard, but becoming a small business owner let her pick her hours.
You can find Guadalupe any day. She has been a member of SVP for years. Our #LiftTheCaps campaign exists to help people like her. To learn more about her, and sign the petition, go here.
Vendors come from all religious backgrounds – Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or no religion at all. But all vendors were excited when SVP got invited to meet Pope Francis this month at the Vatican!
It was part of the World Meeting of Popular Movements, a conference that Pope Francis has convened the past three years. The meeting brings together representatives from 70 countries who work on labor, land, and lodging — excluded worker movements (vendors, waste pickers, etc.), informal housing organizations, and various campesino movements working on agrarian land reform. SVP, represented by director Sean Basinski and Leadership Board member Mohammed Saad Ali, was honored and thrilled to attend.
After three days of intense meetings at the Pontifical International College, the final day took us to the Vatican, where we were addressed by Pope Francis himself. A video of the address, in which the pope spoke of love as an antidote to fear, is here.
Unlike taxi drivers, who are constantly in motion, vendors are usually fixed. We see the same ones every day. They become part of our neighborhoods.
That desire — to profile vendors as fixtures in their neighborhood, informs our summer market at Vendy Plaza. This fall, with support from the New York Council for the Humanities, we are offering a free walking tour of East Harlem, where Vendy Plaza takes place each Sunday. This tour covers stories from the past and present at La Marqueta, NYC’s oldest remaining public market; and stops at a local botanica and area community garden; and other sites that illuminate the neighborhood’s dynamic cultural landscape.
We are proud to offer this tour, in English and Spanish, in conjunction with Turnstile Tours. Sign up here.
Big news was made this week when the Michelin Guide finally opened their fancy minds to street food vendors, awarding Singaporean hawker stall chefs Chan Hon Meng and Tang Chay Seng one star each.
Well done, Michelin! And what better time for you to step up. In 2005 we created the Vendy Awards for the very same reason – to recognize deserving chefs who were being ignored by the so-called food elite. Worthy or not, we’ll take an ounce of credit for helping change who the white-tablecloth crowd deems as worthy of praise. And in less than a month — on September 17th — we’ll recognize this year’s line up of yet-unsung star chefs. As always, one of them will hoist the Vendy Cup. Come celebrate with us — tickets to the event (recognized as one of the best food events in NYC) are available here.
Street vendors are part of our everyday lives. But on the weekends, in cities around the world, people love food markets, whether its La Boqueria in Barcelona or Borough Market in London or Seattle’s Pike Place.
We’re thrilled to be running our own outdoor public market again this summer — we call it Vendy Plaza. Unlike many markets, this one happens on public space with public support (from the NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City’s Economic Development Corporation). Why is that important? Because private space in NYC is very expensive, driving up prices and keeping out all but the best-capitalized few. We are proud to offer the stalls at Vendy Plaza for free. We are equally proud that the vast majority of vendors there are women and/or people of color.
Just ask Elsie Darrell (above) After working for the city for 30 years, Elise opened a highly-regarded cafe in West Harlem. But after a few years, the landlord doubled the rent. To keep cooking while she plots her next move (while passing along her recipes to her son,) Elsie vends each Sunday at the Plaza. Until you’ve tried her callaloo, you haven’t really lived. Find her and about twenty other vendors each Sunday from noon to 6 pm, at 116th Street and Park Avenue.
With street vendors, one pattern is clear: people often render them nameless. Even some of the most famous vendors (i.e. “the Dosa Man“, aka Thiru Kumar and “the Arepa Lady”, aka Maria Piedad Cano) are described primarily by what they sell, not who they are. Some vendors eventually give in, turning their anonymity into a brand, as the Halal Guys have done with great effect. Others are given these arguably demeaning/endearing monikers (“Cart Lady” ?? ) despite their best efforts to develop their own business brands, as happened here to SVP member Fauzia Abdur-Rahman, proprieter of Heavenly Delights.
Sure, some vendors can do a better job of marketing. But so too do customers need to start asking vendors their names. We appreciate that this time, at least, the NY Times got it right by proudly naming and sharing the stories of two hard-working vendors in the Bronx — Angelica and Antonio. Not so hard, now, is it?
Every spring, SVP’s whole family (staff, Leadership Board, members, friends, Advisory Board, funders, party crashers…) gets together at Judson Memorial Church to celebrate the year past and look forward to the year ahead! It’s a gala, but unlike any gala you may be thinking of — no round tables, no rubber chicken, no long speeches. We eat good street food and drink vodka punch and have a good time.
We keep ticket prices reasonable so you will everyone will come. You can get them here. See you on May 3rd!