New York City RSS

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.

Vacant thinking

14 Dec 2017

Every day, it seems, another beloved restaurant, flower shop or shoe-shine-place closes it doors due to rising rents. Everyone now agrees that loss of mom-and-pop small businesses in NYC has reached a critical level. Invariably, the spaces remain vacant for months or years, making matters worse. The causes of this problem -- gentrification, greed, and the rise of online retailing -- seem too complex, and maybe event impossible to root out.

But that is what government is for -- to correct unfairness of the unregulated, and inefficient, free market. Today, the City Council released a report -- Planning for Retail Diversity: Supporting NYC's Neighborhood Businesses -- that lays out 20 concrete steps our elected officials can take. Rather than scapegoating street vendors as part of the problem, the report acknowledges that vendors are also small businesses, and they can and should be part of the solution. After all, every vendor we know dreams of having a roof over their business one day, including SVP member Christine Lynch, who testified at the Council's hearing on the issue on behalf of so many others.

 

Educate the masses

26 Oct 2017

If the whole world knew about street vendors, it would be a better planet -- especially for the millions of vendors who live here! Part of our work at SVP involves educating the general public about the vendors and the important role they play in our city. This month has been a busy one for that. We helped a big group from NYU link up with vendors on their Big Walk (left) through Jackson Heights, we toured East Harlem vending sites with first-year med students at Mount Sinai, and we even taught a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) in Food Truck Law!

Get in touch if you ever want us to come and talk to your group about vendors and SVP!

Organizing without fear

21 Jan 2017

With an anti-immigrant president, many street vendors -- and not just vendors! -- are justifiably scared. In New York, many vendors are undocumented, and just as many are Muslim -- two groups Trump has singled out.  Due to their frequent contact with the criminal justice system, vendors are particularly vulnerable during these scary new times.

However, vendors are not just feeling scared -- they are organizing. On November 21st  we participated in a Sunset Park rally organized by Council Member Carlos Menchaca. On December 2nd, we took part in the Jackson Heights “Hate Free Zone” rally. And yesterday -- Inauguration Day -- we stood with other NY Worker Center Federation groups to launch Freedom Cities, a worker-led response to Trump’s agenda. We will continue to be at the forefront of organizing, without fear, to advance diversity, inclusivity, and peace.

Building neighborhoods

9 Oct 2016

Unlike taxi drivers, who are constantly in motion, vendors are usually fixed. We see the same ones every day. They become part of our neighborhoods.

That desire -- to profile vendors as fixtures in their neighborhood, informs our summer market at Vendy Plaza. This fall, with support from the New York Council for the Humanities, we are offering a free walking tour of East Harlem, where Vendy Plaza takes place each Sunday. This tour covers stories from the past and present at La Marqueta, NYC's oldest remaining public market; and stops at a local botanica and area community garden; and other sites that illuminate the neighborhood's dynamic cultural landscape.

We are proud to offer this tour, in English and Spanish, in conjunction with Turnstile Tours. Sign up 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.

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.

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.