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Breaking myths and working together

20 Sep 2019

The myth that street vendors harm restaurants and other shopkeepers has been used to stall progressive change for years, most notably by Mayor de Blasio. In 2017 we stuck in his own honorable hand a summary of all the academic research that has been done on this issue. What else can we do?

This week we launched an effort to show that the vast majority of restaurant and deli owners are supportive of vendors. Why listen to the real-estate-backed industry lobbyists when we can talk directly to restaurants, many of whom got their start as food trucks or pushcarts? We are, and on Wednesday we did an event in Sunset Park, with local restaurant owners themselves, to kick off this effort. Narrative change is slow, but it bends toward the truth, right? We released this video and we got some nice articles in Patch and on NY1 Noticias on the theme. Stay tuned for more.

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.

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!

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!

#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.

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.