General Discussion RSS

We’re not movin’

6 Aug 2019

The key thing about vendors is that they work in the public space - where the rules are decided not by a private landlord, but by our democratically-elected officials. However, some landlords think that THEY get to determine what happens on our public streets and sidewalks. Often this means evicting street vendors with illegal sidewalk furniture.  Imagine showing up for working and finding these in your spot? No thank you!

Vendors are not taking it any more, and as far as SVP has a say in the matter, will not be bullied by big real estate. Recently, on Broadway and 31st Street in Manhattan, a Business Improvement District installed a row of sidewalk obstructions to displace vendors who had been working there, in some cases, more than 35 years!  We did a press conference yesterday to draw public attention to this issue, and to demand these planters be moved. Read about it in the Wall Street Journal, AM New York, and Curbed.

Honor thy mother

13 May 2019

Yesterday was Mother's Day, but many vendors cannot celebrate with their children -- they have to work! Mother's Day is the biggest day of the year for flower sales, so many vendors branch into that field on this special day. But hopefully over the next week, vendors who are mothers (like Angelica, left) will get to relax a bit with their families. Like all mothers, they deserve it.

Undeniably, the face of vending in NYC is becoming more female. In some neighborhoods, like Corona, the vast majority of street vendors are women, as the survey we did for the city's CDNA found. Another thing we noticed? That many children help their mothers at the cart, like Luz Maria,  the vendor profiled in this excellent piece last month. Hang out with Mom while learning business skills? Sounds like a perfect Mother's Day to us!

We keep advancing toward justice

15 Apr 2019

Some people who follow our work -- and surely all our members -- are tired that we are still fighting for food vending permits, after launching the campaign in May 2014 and almost winning in December 2017. But here we are!

We'll keep fighting until we get some justice. A bill (very similar to the last one) to double the number of vending permits (while also streamlining enforcement and creating a Vendor Advisory Board) was introduced in October 2018, and it had a City Hall hearing last week. Several hundred vendors came out to plea for change, as did a huge coalition of organizations in support. Yes, the real estate folks were there again. But as time goes on, it seems like the are fighting a losing fight.  Pa'lante!

Making the grade

28 Jan 2019

After several years of talking about it, the NYC Department of Health is finally giving vendors letter grades, just as they do with restaurants.

We support this change and always have. Vendors are already inspected by the DOH -- they should receive recognition when they have a clean record, just as they receive tickets and fines when they fail.  To be clear, we definitely DO NOT support the GPS tracking system the DOH wrongly claims it need to give the letter grades. We are considering a legal challenge to this unsafe and overly intrusive practice.

But as for the grades themselves, the time has come, and vendors are excited. We hope this new practice will finally shut up those ignorant people who claim that vendors are not required to comply with the Health Code. Even more important, if will bring vendors greater respect. Indeed, twenty of the first 24 vendors to be inspected so far have received an A. No surprise to us!

Goings and comings

23 Dec 2018

Last week, after a short 17 years, SVP founder Sean Basinski announced he would be stepping down and turning over the reigns to his co-director, former vendor and SVP Leadership Board member Mohamed Attia. In his goodbye email, Sean reflected on how vendors (who now have a Netflix series) have gone mainstream - something that would have been unthinkable in 2001. But he also acknowledged all the work that lies ahead and his confidence in Mohamed and the entire SVP community to carry forth to get it done.

Thanks, Sean, for all your vision and hard work! And Mohamed -- congratulations!

A Day for Vendors

17 Nov 2018

There are lots of silly holidays these days, from National Guacamole Day all the way to National Clean-Out-Your-Fridge Day. Most of them are shameless plugs sold by public relations flacks on behalf of big companies. But International Street Vendors Day, celebrated around the world each November 14th, is something different. It is not trying to sell you anything. Instead, the point is simply to recognize the contributions that vendors make and raise awareness on the significant challenges they face, from India to Spain to Kenya. And yes, here in New York.

We always try to celebrate this special, if slightly made-up, day. A few years ago we did clean-up after Hurricane Sandy, last year we celebrated with vendors at our office, and this year we had a dumpling-making event with some close friends and supporters. We also reached out to a bunch of StreetNet affiliates around the world and compiled this very short video greeting. Enjoy!

Ultimate honors

26 Sep 2018

Not a lot of events can keep going strong for fourteen years! But the Vendy Awards, our annual fundraiser / cook-off festival for the best NYC mobile food vendors, is something special.

This year's event, held last Saturday, was no different. With blessings of the weather gods, we had a gorgeous day, as usual.  More than a thousand people boarded the ferry to Governor's Island to partake. There was excitement in the air, as 25 vendors cooked their hearts out in five categories, including our special Best Breakfast prize.

While not everyone could take home the Vendy Cup (left, with overall winner Royal Halal Food)  it felt like everyone was a winner. The vendors got some great press, which should give their businesses a boost. Their stories got told, helping change the narrative about the quality of food on our city streets and the people who make it.  And the issues we fight for at SVP got understood just a little bit better.

#MeToo Movement

19 Aug 2018

Around the world, a majority of street vendors are women. In Bolivia, about 80% of vendors are female. In Zimbabwe, that number is 70%. No matter the country, women vendors are worse off than their male counterparts. They invariably have fewer resources, and they face greater issues of safety and harassment, including by law enforcement officials.

In New York, the majority of vendors are men, but the number of women is significant and rising, even though their stories go relatively untold.  A survey we did last year of vendors in Corona, Queens found that a whopping 79% of vendors in that neighborhood were women! At SVP, we have always had strong women leaders, and our current Leadership Board is no exception. Several of them, like Eliana, Kele and Heleadora (left) have reinvigorated our Women's Committee, which (with the help of some of you!) rented a space and sold at Harlem Day yesterday, not just talking about women's financial empowerment, but doing it.

Somebody’s Watching You

20 Jul 2018

Does it sometimes feel like that? If you were a food vendor in NYC, you would be right to feel that way.

Because last month, the Department of Health announced plans to place GPS trackers on each of the city's 5,000 or so mobile food carts and trucks. The city claims it needs GPS to locate carts to conduct inspections. But vendors (some of whom, by the way, are undocumented immigrants) don't trust the city, not even a little. And they surely don't trust the federal government at a time when ICE is showing up in courtrooms, schools, and green card hearings to find people and deport them. Last week we attended the hearing to testify against this bad idea.

Hopefully, Mayor de Blasio, who likes to claim NYC is a "Sanctuary City," will step in to stop this plan. If not, we are prepared to sue. After all, no lower court than the US Supreme Court  has recently taken an expansive view of the rights of individuals to be free from constant digital surveillance. 

Threatening?

15 Jun 2018

Sometimes you have to run as fast as you can, just to stay in place. That happened with the introduction of three anti-vendor bills at City Council last week which are being pushed through council at breakneck speed. 

One of these bills would evict 22 vending businesses from various streets around the World Trade Center, in Lower Manhattan - putting about 30 people out of work. The impetus?  According to the NYPD, vague "security" threats that a vendor might plant a bomb in their pushcart. To us, that sounds Islamophobic, especially given that 18 of these 22 vending carts are Muslim-run. In fact, vendors are good for public safety, and these vendors often report suspicious people and packages to the police, helping keep us all safe.

We organized about 50 vendors to testify at the hearing yesterday, got great support from allied organizations, and generated some good press hits. But we'll have to keep fighting to keep these streets open to vending - and safe !  These vendors are part of our community. They are #notathreat.