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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.

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!

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 Plaza 2016

17 Jul 2016

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

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

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
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

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.