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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.

Less than human

22 May 2018

President Trump's calling immigrants "animals" this week has many people rightly taking note of how dangerous is such dehumanizing language.

But vendors, so frequently the target of racism and anti-immigrant bias, are used to being portrayed as less than human. Way back in 1938, Deputy Mayor Curran described a band of flower peddlers who "infested" his neighborhood. And even today, vendors still get described as locusts, leeches, and "bees in a hive." And that is in public - just imagine what is said behind closed doors!

Until things change, we'll keep on policing language -- because it matters -- and demonstrating the humanity of every flesh-and-blood person who sells on the streets of our great city.

Whose community?

26 Apr 2018

Neutral processes don't always produce fair outcomes. Why? The playing field is not level to start.

Which is why it is never enough for the government to "hold a community meeting". Who came to your meeting? Who even knew about it? Was translation provided to those who showed up? This idea was illustrated beautifully this week in this City Limits article on the NYPD's efforts to improve police-community relations. Even if the police had the best of intentions, these meetings became outlets for wealthy residents and business interests to complain about marginalized folks, including the homeless and street vendors.

Note to NYPD: instead of spending $3.5 million on slick ads, you could just ask vendors next time. Or ask us to! We have lots of members who would love to give you a piece of their mind.

World Urban Forum 9

29 Mar 2018

SVP organizes vendors in New York, but if we can be small voice for vendors around the world, we will. SVP director Sean Basinski and SVP leader Lei Bai traveled to the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur  last month. When we design and build our cities, we must make sure that street vendors (and other marginalized users of public space) are included.  We spoke on a panel about "Decent Work in Inclusive Cities" with other informal sector workers and organizations, and made connections that we hope will advance our agenda back home. Sean was lucky enough to get interviewed by Next City about whether street vendors are part of the city of the future, a clip of which can be heard here.

After Malaysia, we flew to Bangkok, where WIEGO has been convening local vendor associations threatened by evictions from the military government there. We were happy to provide some advice, and learn some lessons from the vendors there forming a city-wide coalition to fight for their rights.

Mr. Okra

28 Feb 2018

Its not very often that humble street vendors get an obituary in the New York Times. But who could miss the sendoff last week of Arthur J. Robinson of New Orleans? Robinson (aka Mr. Okra) sold fruits and vegetables from the back of a colorful truck that cruised the streets of the Big Easy for more than 50 years, just like his father before him. With his distinctive peddler cry, he became a local celebrity, the subject of a documentary, and the main character in a children's book. Only befitting that, a few days ago, New Orleans held a "second-line" funeral procession to honor him.

Remember: vendors do not just provide good and services. Some of them, at least, enrich our culture.

I feel like I’m free

22 Jul 2017

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

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

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

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

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.