Two years ago, we realized that vendors don’t just need legal advice, training, and a voice at City Hall. Sometimes they also need loans to expand their businesses — or simply maintain them in the face of high fines and harsh economic times. We raised $1,700 to help Mohammed Ullah stay in business.
But SVP has neither the capacity nor experience to keep raising and providing one-off loans on our own. We’ve teamed up with an experienced microfinance provider, the Business Center for New Americans, and today we are announcing the Pushcart Fund, the first ever dedicated loan fund for street vendors.
We are trying to raise $10,000, which will enable us to meet our goal, close the fund, and start giving loans to worthy people like Camille (above). Please check out our loan page and watch our two-minute video here. Will you help?
Politicians all love to wave flags and march in parades on Veterans Day, which was last week. But when it comes to supporting bills to help veteran street vendors (like Intros 434 and 435) our friends at City Hall sometimes are not so patriotic.
There are nearly 2,000 US military veterans working on the streets of New York City, all thanks to a 1894 state law recognizing that those who defend our country should at least get to put a 6-foot table on the public sidewalk. News flash: many vets are losing their livelihoods due to $1,000 tickets imposed by the Bloomberg administration. Maybe every Council Member not supporting the bills should have to tell SVP board member Bernard Haynes (pictured here, from his days in Korea) why the $1,000 tickets he got for vending on a subway grate are fair compensation for his heroic service.
Not only is Zuccotti Park, the headquarters of Occupy Wall Street, just a few blocks from SVP’s office in Lower Manhattan. Its also very close to our heart. As protypical members of the 99%, street vendors are oppressed by wealthy elites who are “uncomfortable” with their presence, and yet who have the ear of policy-makers like our Mayor. Though vendors don’t have time to sleep in the park (and though some are sadly losing business,) SVP members are squarely on board OWS’s main goal: economic fairness. After our general meeting last week, vendors grabbed our banner and marched over to Zuccotti Park to perform our traditional “vendor power” cheer, to the delight of the OWS crowd. We are now participating in OWS working groups to help plan future events, while looking for other ways to collaborate with this historic movement.
There are a whole lot of urban planners, thinkers and writers who care about public space and how its used. In New York, the Department of Transportation has won rave reviews the last few years for creating people-friendly public spaces, with bike lanes and plazas. But rarely do urban planners plan for street vendors. Luckily that is changing. Columbia University’s Urban Planning program spent a whole semester, with our help, studying vendors and preparing an in-depth report (downloadable here) about how the vending rules could be reformed to benefit the public. And last week, as part of Urban Design Week, we co-sponsored a public-space picnic (with Columbia and the Design Trust for Public Space) to demonstrate how legalizing vendors could enliven many desolate plazas, if only there were allowed to work there. Imagine that. Pictures here.
Our campaign to get rid of the $1,000 vending tickets, aka Intros 434 and 435 is going well, and a majority of City Council Members are now co-sponsors of both bills. But a few Council Members are hesitant to get on board without more knowledge. Which we fully respect. That is why we’ve been spending time in working-class Jamaica, Queens, talking to Council Member Leroy Comrie, the Deputy Majority Leader and his consituents. If videos like this don’t convince him, we don’t know what will.
There are two worlds in New York City, and the difference between them is the difference between the Union Square Greenmarket, where foodies peruse organic heirloom tomatoes at $4 per pound, and the Forsyth Street Market in Chinatown, under the Manhattan Bridge, where $4 will get you three pounds of onions, a pound of peppers, three pounds of bok choy, and a couple mangoes. With a dragon fruit thrown if you speak Chinese.
While the City rightly supports markets like at Union Square, it gave nearly 2,000 tickets to vendors at Forsyth Street Market the past two years, in addition to arrests, confiscation of produce, seizures of carts and equipment, and illegal parking restrictions. Why the unequal treatment? Unlike at Union Square, the immigrants who work and shop at Forsyth Street – 94% of them Asian-American — have no voice. Hopefully our new report, “Spoiled” will help change that, if even a little bit.
One of the most difficult things about bringing together street vendors into one community is that sometimes they fight against each other for scarce sidewalk space. Ocassionally, when people are struggling like vendors are, it even gets violent.
Since no vendor has any legal claim to any particular spot, its all about respect. Its one thing to encourage vendors to respect each other’s spots, but what do you do when someone doesn’t listen? Last week, a group of SVP members (left) paid a visit to a supposed bad-apple vendor, to encourage him to keep a respectful distance from vendors who had spent years building up their spots. And you know what? He turned out to be a pretty nice guy. Here’s to all vendors working together in peace!
There will never be a lack of brick-and-mortar businesses complaining about “unfair competition” from street vendors. Whether its Korean green grocers in the outer boroughs or Business Improvement Districts in Washington Heights, store-based merchants love to use their power against their less-developed neighbors selling from tables, carts or trucks.
But you know what? We’re sick of it. They can make any claim they want, but every bit of research shows that vendors do not compete with brick-and-mortar merchants. From now on, any journalist that presents the tired, “store owners said this, vendors said that” story without citing the available research on the matter is not doing their job. So, here it is: scholarly proof that vendors do not compete with brick-and-mortar merchants. The vendors rest. Thank you.
All street vendors are heroes, but only very few get recognized for it. Sometimes they save a city from likely calamity and end up getting phone calls from President Obama. Other times they see something, say something, and it turns out to be false alarm, like this guy near Fordham University yesterday. Sometimes they rescue pigeons.
Whatever it is, SVP is working to get vendors recognized for their overall heroism, which is why we’ll have a non-culinary award category at this year’s Vendy Awards, as we discussed recently on radio here and in print here. Now go nominate your favorite vendor here.
While there are only (!) about ten thousand street vendors in New York City, there are millions around the world. SVP plays a role in the worldwide vendors’ movement through our proud affiliation with StreetNet International.
And we don’t stop there. Last week, we held a vigil at City Hall to honor Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose reponse to police abuse was tragic — he set himself on fire. His martyrdom led to revolution in the Middle East and made him a hero around the world.
Standing around a fruit cart, SVP members held candles and gave moving tributes to Bouazizi, punctuated by shouts of “Vendor Power” in various languages. As if on cue, a Tunisian tourist walked up and spoke. It was a poignant tribute. Look at the pictures here and read the Daily News article here.