Its great to see that NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants to support small businesses. Last week she announced five measures that would help undo the “gotcha” culture that pervades at many agencies, including steps to decrease fines for restaurants. Great idea!
But what about small business owners like SVP member Alassane Fall (left), who just got a $1,000 ticket because his table was allegedly one inch too high? All she needs to do is call a vote on two bills (Intros 434 and 435) that have already had a full hearing and already have the support of the majority of City Council Members. Speaker Quinn, we urge you to do so !
Please read more and take action here.
SVP has played an active role these past 6 months in the growing citywide movement against stop and frisk, the controversial NYPD tactic that caused 685,724 people (almost all young black or Latino men) to be stopped, questioned and patted down last year, with no reason to believe they had done anything wrong. Stopping stop and frisk is the first step toward having a police department that treats all people, including vendors, with dignity and respect.
In May, we began working with the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) our sister project at UJC who have been building a movement and generating a lot of dialogue on the issue. In June, we sent a contingent to the historic Father’s Day march. And last week, we collaborated with artist Aaron Gach, who developed a project to get vendors talking about stop and frisk with tourists, subverting the dominant narrative they receive about liberty here. We can’t explain it as well as Aaron, so check out this great article in the NY Times!
New York is big enough. But we’re proud that we get to work with vendors in other cities across the U.S. One way is through the Vendy Awards, which now takes place in NYC, Philly, and Los Angeles. The 2nd Los Angeles Vendys took place this Sunday in Pan Pacific Park, and the whole SVP staff went out to soak up the sun. The winner was Chef Sumant from the fabulous India Jones truck. Here’s an event recap and a ton of photos.
Thanks to our friends at LA City Farm and CHIRLA and the SoCal Mobile Food Venodors’ Association and especially the East LA Community Corporation for all their help in hosting us and helping put on the Vendys.
We know that people who oppose street vendors often do for reasons of race and class. As Daniel Bluestone wrote in his seminal article, the Pushcart Evil, “efforts to curb the pushcart markets went hand in hand with xenophobic Americanization and immigration-restriction campaigns directed at working class immigrants.”
Lately that has been the case in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, a once Italian-American neighborhood that has seen an influx of Arab Americans. While Sammy Kassen’s food cart has been serving up delicious food for nearly four years, lately a few brick and mortar shopkeepers and the local BID have gone to great lengths to remove him. A media firestorm in the quiet neighborhood, fueled by a shoving match, a fake protest by a local bar owner, and some illegal planters placed on the sidewalk to eliminate the vendor. While the brick-and-mortars cry “unfair competition,” its pretty clear the opposition is based on race and ethnicity. SVP is helping out with legal assistance and media support. As we say in this editorial, we hope that, instead of fanning the flames, elected officials can help broker some peace in Bay Ridge.
It feels like we’ve been fighting for a lifetime. But the end might be in sight. Today the City Council will hold a hearing on the two bills we have been working on for nearly 18 months — Intros 434 and 435 — to lower the $1,000 fines vendors still pay for minor violations. It will be a good excuse to release the new report done by John Davis and Alfonso Morales from the University of Wisconsin – Fining The Hand that Feeds You. The report shows that lowering fines will put more money in the City’s pockets, too! And if you are not the reading type, just go and watch this gorgeous new video by Samuel Enblom.
SVP was started ten years ago, not long after 9/11, when vendors were being kept from returning to work downtown, until we changed that. In the last decade, we’ve won lawsuits, held rallies, issued reports, given awards, and changed the way people think about street vendors, in New York and beyond. We’ve also built a community of 1,300 vendors who are together providing a voice to demand dignity, opportunity, and respect.
Last week, we got together with a few hundred of our closest friends at Judson Church in the West Village. Thanks to Dana, Lizzy, and the whole team of volunteers who planned the event. And, of course, everyone who came out to celebrate. We raised nearly $10,000 to support our work – a thousand bucks for each year we’ve been open. Don’t wait for next year, view some photos from the event here.
LAist covered the story here. And Hoboken, NJ vendor (and SVP member) Adam Sobel is getting his customers to put pressure on the Mayor through his active Facebook page.
Its not easy fighting for the 99% when you’ve got the one-percenters like Dan Biederman lobbying against you. Biederman, head of the 34th Street Partnership, takes home $500K a year and lives in Chappaqua. He claims to know what New York should look like, but he’s best known for his privatization of public spaces like Bryant Park over the years.
Last week he launched an unprovoked attack against vendors on the front page of AM New York, calling vendors “bad citizens” and “slobs.” You’ve got a right to your opinion, Biederman. But you won’t insult a whole population of people in this city without a response from us. We are New York. And you? Not so much. Our board wrote a letter demanding an apology last week. And then, with no response, we camped out in front of Biedernman’s office for a press conference today. Thanks to El Diario for covering it. And we’re just getting started with you, Biederman! You’ll be hearing from us!
Getting a law changed at City Hall requires lots of closed-door meetings. But you also need to mobilize your grassroots, show yourself to be a powerful constituency, and keep your issue in the press. All that is why SVP, VAMOS Unidos and the 125th Street Merchants Association held a rally last week at City Hall to demand a hearing on Intros 434 and 435. A more rainy, ugly day we never did see. Our beautiful signs all got soaked. But more than 400 vendors were joined by five Council Members and tons of media outlets, like the Times, Daily News , Post, and WNYC. The message was simple : we need to lower the $1,000 fines now !
Photo courtesy William Alatriste