In the Press RSS

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.We 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.

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!

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.

Safe spaces to work

5 May 2017

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

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.

 

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.