In the Press RSS

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
uSBNYC

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.

Safe spaces to work

5 May 2017
#JusticeforSouleymane square

Working by yourself on the public sidewalk, as vendors do each day, carries many safety risks we don’t always consider. You might get robbed. You might get arrested by ICE, and end up deported. You might get beaten by authorities. You might get struck by a runaway vehicle.

Or you might get viciously assaulted by a gang of criminals, as happened to long-time SVP member Souleymane Porgo this week. Porgo, an immigrant from Burkina Faso, has sold books and handbags in the South Bronx for many years to support his wife and two young daughters. All of whom were near his table on Tuesday afternoon when one man tried to steal Souleymane’s merchandise, then returned with four friends. Souleymane’s attack, captured in a disturbing video, has left him in a coma, in the hospital, with a fractured skull.

While we think about what real safety means, all we can do is hope that Souleymane recovers, and that his attackers are captured and brought to justice. In the meantime, we have launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help his family a bit during this difficult time.

Listen up, Mayor de Blasio!

5 Apr 2017
Ydanis square

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
Claudia event 1 square

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.

 

Organizing without fear

21 Jan 2017
Hands off

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.

Guadalupe’s story

4 Dec 2016
guadalupe-square

Guadalupe is a wife, mother, and mobile food vendor in Brooklyn. She’s worked jobs ranging from housekeeper to attendant at a dry cleaners. But commuting for hours every day at jobs she didn’t love prevented her from seeing the very people she was doing it for: her family.

So she decided to become her own boss. She began selling tamales door-to-door six days a week, sometimes going to bed around 2AM and waking up at 4AM to continue preparing for the upcoming day. It was hard, but becoming a small business owner let her pick her hours.

You can find Guadalupe any day. She has been a member of SVP for years. Our #LiftTheCaps campaign exists to help people like her.  To learn more about her, and sign the petition, go here.

Building neighborhoods

9 Oct 2016
conga-line-square

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 season

20 Aug 2016
20120915-222763-VendyAwards-VendyCup

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
elsie2

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.