General Discussion RSS

Incubate this!

7 Dec 2010

New York City, with a mayor who got his start as an entrepreneur, likes to say it supports small businesses. The City’s Economic Development Corporation is even spending $1 million to open “business incubators,” in all five boroughs, to encourage the “next Google.” Sounds exciting!

At the same time, however, the City is doing nothing to save the Aqueduct Flea Market, which supports nearly 1,000 less glamorous immigrant small-business owners and is being evicted by the NY State gambling commission next week. Despite a bunch of press coverage (1,2,3) and the best efforts of the Indo-Carribean Alliance to organize the vendors and find them a new location, it seems this 30-year old Queens marketplace will be going out with a whimper. Our friends at the Center for an Urban Future said it best in their World of Opportunity report: “in most cases, immigrant-run businesses aren’t even on the radar of local economic development officials.” Why is that? And where is the outrage about Aqueduct?

Vendors swiping plastic

26 May 2010

As SVP grows older and wiser, we’re spending more of our time time helping vendors advance their business in a positive direction – instead of just fighting to get the city off our backs! One of our most recent ideas is to link our members up with credit card processing machines, so they can accept credit cards as payment and (hopefully) boost their sales. We got a merchant services company to kick in some free machines and launched a pilot project this week, among 10 of our members, to see if it works. The idea seems to be striking a chord — at least we got nice stories in the WSJ, NY Post, and on WPIX (video here).

Too bad, Hiram

11 Feb 2010

Do bad things happen to people who don’t like street vendors? Were they bad people to begin with?

Let’s just say we knew Hiram Monserrate when he was a City Council Member. Despite representing an immigrant community, he was a rabid and oustpoken opponent of street vendors. He sponsored legislation to increase (!) penalties against vendors and decrease (?) the number of food vending licenses available. In 2008,  he was charged with slashing his girlfriend in the face with a broken glass, leaving a gash requiring forty stitches. This week, he was expelled from the New York State Senate, becoming the first NY lawmaker expelled since 1861.

As Alam Alaikum

25 Jan 2010

We missed this original City Room post about Park Avenue fruit vendor Nurul Alam, whose upper-crust customers got worried when he disappeared from their corner in October. It turns out Alam was picked up by the immigration authorities and held in detention for three months. Luckily, as Susan Dominus updated today, those same customers helped obtain his release from jail, at least pending his next hearing. A heartwarming story, but we have to wonder, like commenters George and David, what would have happened if Alam didn’t have friends in high places? And how many other there are like him who we never hear about?

Meet your vendor: Tesfalum Kiflu

22 Jan 2010

To share the stories of the 939 wonderful New Yorkers who are SVP members, we’re starting an interview series. Interview #1 is the only Eritrean vendor we’ve ever met — Tesfalum Kiflu. He happens to make really delicious food – here’s his menu. Read the interview here. And btw we’re looking for someone to help conduct these interviews. Students? Bloggers? Bored office workers?

SVP does microfinance

18 Jan 2010

We love peer-to-peer lending sites like Kiva and Prosper,  which are creating a revolution in microfinance by linking small businesspeople seeking loans with people who have spare change to invest.  But all those sites require a good credit score, which defeats the whole purpose — most of our members have no credit at all.  So we sent around an email and collected $1,700 for peanut vendor Mohammed Ullah, who needs the money to renew his license. Read about this project (with video) here and let us know if you’d be willing to support a broader SVP loan fund in the future.

Hot deals on cameras

14 Dec 2009

camcorders_07Looking for something to get your favorite street vendor for the holiday? Check out this little flip-type camera available at for 29 bucks! Ideal for documenting police encounters. Only 113 left!

Colin Powell loves vendors, what they stand for

4 Dec 2009

colin-powellAnd they love him, apparently. Anyone who has every been around vendors knows how extremely generous and kind-hearted they are. We’ve turned down hundreds of free meals (and maybe even accepted a few!) over the years. But doesn’t this story by Colin Powell (page to the second paragraph from the bottom) sound a little canned to you?

Sorry, student journalists

1 Dec 2009

random photo 9Ok, we’ll admit it. SVP gets a LOT of inquiries from student journalists who are interested in vendors and their issues.  And sometimes we are not as patient with them as we should be. For all those times, we are sorry. Especially because students sometimes produce very nice videos like this, by CUNY’s Aisha Al-Muslim, which we can use to educate the world about our issues.  Or thorough articles like this one, by Lecia Bushak at NYU.

Only 38 views?

2 Nov 2009

CaptureThis  audio slideshow about NYC immigrant vendors is one of the most touching things we’ve seen in a while. It should be required viewing for every New York politician. And only 38 Youtube hits? Let’s change that. And, please, if you make anything so beautiful and relevant to our work, send SVP the link!