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I feel like I’m free

22 Jul 2017
Waleed square

Much of the work we do involves hardship and conflict. And in fact, when Walid Abdelwahab (left) became a member last fall, he had been displaced from his spot, on the Upper West Side, by large concrete planters. The fancy condo had placed them there illegally. The local Council Member refused to get involved. The police even arrested him the first time he tried to go back to work. Luckily, SVP was able to help Walid return to work.

But this video, about Walid and his planter ordeal, fills us with positivity and hope. In fact, for all the struggles, most vendors are like Walid. Wherever they came from, they are proud of the United States and happy to live in New York. They love their jobs and the freedom that comes with being your own boss. They love contributing to the communities where they work. They get up each day smiling and hoping for good weather and strong sales. Despite the struggle, that should make us all feel good!

We are small business!

14 Jun 2017
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Everyone says they support small businesses! Politicians love to put together small business panels and issue reports. But when it really comes down to it, most small businesses in NYC have one big problem — the real estate industry. High rents keep all but the very few street vendors from opening brick-and-mortars in the first place. And even for long-time shopkeepers, landlords love to double or triple the rent, forcing them out.  Many real estate companies would rather sit on vacant spaces, taking a tax write off, than rent out those spaces to deserving mom and pops.

Finally, a coalition of small businesses has formed called United for Small Business NYC (USBnyc). Today at City Hall the coalition announced its four-point platform, which includes a tax on landlords that warehouse spaces for more than six months. Like the bodega owner, restaurateur, or shoe shine man (or woman) we share a common struggle for space in this high-priced city. Our members were proud to attend and lend their voices to this important cause, and we will keep working with groups like ANHD, NWBCC, and WHEDco to advance this agenda. Read the Crains coverage here.

Listen up, Mayor de Blasio!

5 Apr 2017
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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.

Waiting, we keep fighting

23 Feb 2017
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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.

 

Vendy season

20 Aug 2016
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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.

Vendy Plaza 2016

17 Jul 2016
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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.

RIP, Claudia Lopez

25 Feb 2016
Claudia

In organizations, as in life, people come and go. But why is it that the strongest members of our community frequently leave us too soon?

Last year, we lost our beloved Derrick Wilmot. And a few days ago we saw the passing of long-time Corona food vendor, SVP leader and community activist Claudia Lopez. Claudia, who sold churros and peanuts along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens for nearly twenty years, was an inspiration to us all. We are lucky to  have known her and spent time with her, and we can only watch videos like this with great memories of an amazing woman. Her family is raising funds to have her body shipped back to her native Mexico. Please consider making a donation here.

You’re fired!

25 Jan 2016
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Friends sometimes innocently ask us, “who doesn’t like street vendors?” They are hard-working people, they are honest, they provide us with stuff we need every day, etc. Who doesn’t like ’em? A fair question. The answer is easy. People like Donald Trump don’t like street vendors. Billionaire real estate developers do not like street vendors. Racists and xenophobes do not like street vendors. Arrogant, bombastic, narcissists do not usually like street vendors.

In fact, it’s not just people like Donald Trump. Trump himself has personally been a powerful voice against vendors in NYC. In 1991, and again in 2004, he lobbied to remove disabled veteran vendors from Fifth Avenue because, he thought, they would “downgrade” the area. SVP even once protested the presence of illegal sidewalk planters (visible here), displacing vendors, outside Trump Tower.

We don’t get involved with Presidential elections. But street vendors are proud to call Barack Obama our friend. And equally proud to call Donald Trump our great enemy.

Cut the tape

11 Dec 2015
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Politicians love to talk about supporting small businesses and reducing the bureaucracy that makes it so hard to run one. We were thrilled to hear that NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer had created a Red Tape Commission and scheduled a series of hearings to listen to what kind of government obstacles stand in the way of small business survival and growth.

After all, no small businesses face greater government regulations than vendors on the street. So yesterday, about 15 SVP members attended the Manhattan hearing, where they spoke movingly about the biggest piece of red tape in the city — the cap on vending licenses and permits. Gothamist was there to help amplify what was said. The testimony became part of the permanent record. An hopefully the Commission will recommend, in its final report, that the permit cap be lifted.

Simple economics

31 Oct 2015
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Politicians always love to talk about supporting small businesses. But when it comes down to policy, sometimes they are slow to act. And that failure can affect people’s lives.

We saw this again this week when another popular food vendor – Mexico Blvd — announced they are closing their truck for good. The difficulty getting a permit, and the hassles with parking, finally got to be too much. Luckily, the Loaeza family has a brick-and-mortar, so hopefully they will be ok. But how many vending businesses quietly go under, and they don’t make the news? How many entrepreneurs look into starting a food vending business and, reading how difficult it is, never even start?

As things get cold in New York, and summer permits expire, let’s hope that many food vendors are able to survive this winter. Let’s hope that, by the time spring comes, our City Council and Mayor will have repealed the permit cap that is such a burden on small business in NYC. Jobs and livelihoods are at stake. The solution is simple. Let’s hope our politicians act.