New York is big enough. But we’re proud that we get to work with vendors in other cities across the U.S. One way is through the Vendy Awards, which now takes place in NYC, Philly, and Los Angeles. The 2nd Los Angeles Vendys took place this Sunday in Pan Pacific Park, and the whole SVP staff went out to soak up the sun. The winner was Chef Sumant from the fabulous India Jones truck. Here’s an event recap and a ton of photos.
Thanks to our friends at LA City Farm and CHIRLA and the SoCal Mobile Food Venodors’ Association and especially the East LA Community Corporation for all their help in hosting us and helping put on the Vendys.
Politicians all love to wave flags and march in parades on Veterans Day, which was last week. But when it comes to supporting bills to help veteran street vendors (like Intros 434 and 435) our friends at City Hall sometimes are not so patriotic.
There are nearly 2,000 US military veterans working on the streets of New York City, all thanks to a 1894 state law recognizing that those who defend our country should at least get to put a 6-foot table on the public sidewalk. News flash: many vets are losing their livelihoods due to $1,000 tickets imposed by the Bloomberg administration. Maybe every Council Member not supporting the bills should have to tell SVP board member Bernard Haynes (pictured here, from his days in Korea) why the $1,000 tickets he got for vending on a subway grate are fair compensation for his heroic service.
Not only is Zuccotti Park, the headquarters of Occupy Wall Street, just a few blocks from SVP’s office in Lower Manhattan. Its also very close to our heart. As protypical members of the 99%, street vendors are oppressed by wealthy elites who are “uncomfortable” with their presence, and yet who have the ear of policy-makers like our Mayor. Though vendors don’t have time to sleep in the park (and though some are sadly losing business,) SVP members are squarely on board OWS’s main goal: economic fairness. After our general meeting last week, vendors grabbed our banner and marched over to Zuccotti Park to perform our traditional “vendor power” cheer, to the delight of the OWS crowd. We are now participating in OWS working groups to help plan future events, while looking for other ways to collaborate with this historic movement.
There will never be a lack of brick-and-mortar businesses complaining about “unfair competition” from street vendors. Whether its Korean green grocers in the outer boroughs or Business Improvement Districts in Washington Heights, store-based merchants love to use their power against their less-developed neighbors selling from tables, carts or trucks.
But you know what? We’re sick of it. They can make any claim they want, but every bit of research shows that vendors do not compete with brick-and-mortar merchants. From now on, any journalist that presents the tired, “store owners said this, vendors said that” story without citing the available research on the matter is not doing their job. So, here it is: scholarly proof that vendors do not compete with brick-and-mortar merchants. The vendors rest. Thank you.
While there are only (!) about ten thousand street vendors in New York City, there are millions around the world. SVP plays a role in the worldwide vendors’ movement through our proud affiliation with StreetNet International.
And we don’t stop there. Last week, we held a vigil at City Hall to honor Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose reponse to police abuse was tragic — he set himself on fire. His martyrdom led to revolution in the Middle East and made him a hero around the world.
Standing around a fruit cart, SVP members held candles and gave moving tributes to Bouazizi, punctuated by shouts of “Vendor Power” in various languages. As if on cue, a Tunisian tourist walked up and spoke. It was a poignant tribute. Look at the pictures here and read the Daily News article here.
Proposals to tighten health code standards for carts and trucks in LA has got some people wondering whether street food vendors should be held to the same health standards as restaurants. Well, guess what? In New York, they already are! While letter grades have yet to happen here (they’ve been proposed) the same health code applies to vendors as restaurants. Vendors get inspected, just like restaurants, and get tickets for the same things – food at the wrong temperature, bare hand contact, etc. Vendors get shut down if they have serious violations. Even the penalties are the same – meaning the peanut vendor who makes $100 a day has to pay the same fine as Smith & Wollensky, which had sales of $25 million last year. Where’s the fairness in that?
No matter how great the Vendy Awards go each year, they just keep getting better! Last Saturday, more than 1,400 people came out to Governor’s Island for our Sixth Annual event. Gorgeous weather, eighteen vendors from three categories — you can’t make this stuff up. And it was a story-book ending, with Fares “Freddy” Zeidaies (the King of Falafel & Shawarma, left) taking home the Vendy Cup and the Master Card People’s Choice Award after two years coming up empty. Yeah, baby! Kelvin Slush got Best Dessert and Soulvaki GR took home Best Rookie. Thanks to everyone - sponsors, judges, volunteers, vendors, anybody we’re missing– for making this year so great.
Oh and did you hear? We’re taking the Vendys to Philadelphia next year!
SVP was honored to co-sponsor Contesting the Streets, the historic vending conference that took place at UCLA last weekend (photos here). It was many things at once: a stellar academic conference with fascinating speakers and presentations, a first-ever meeting/strategy session for vending organizations from around the country, all capped off by the first-ever LA Vendy Awards. SVP was well-represented, with four board members, one staff, two volunteers, and countless friends all making the trip. While we’re evaluating next steps (and washing the sand out of our ears) we’d like to thank Rocio, Abel, Victor, Carl, Erin, Zach, and everyone else who helped make the weekend great. Vendor power, coast to coast!
With random towns like Roanoke, Virginia proposing to legalize hot dog carts, street vending fever is sweeping the nation. In most cities, however, vendors are not yet organized, which means we get emails like this, from a woman looking for a vendor support group in Minneapolis. We discussed this issue on the Village Voice food blog last week.
Until now, there hasn’t been much we can do — we don’t know anybody in Minneapolis! But, on May 14 and 15th, SVP is co-sponsoring “Contesting the Streets” the first-ever vendor conference in the U.S., at UCLA. We’re trying to find vendor groups around the country to attend. Here’s a flyer in English and Spanish. Please help circulate!
UPDATE: Here’s an interesting article on the Street Vendors Association of Chicago. We’re hoping they can send someone to the conference.
In 1905, Rev. Bernardino Polizzo (member of the Mayor’s Pushcart Commission) said, “I think it would be a great advantage to all the peddlers to have a translated copy of the license issued. As it is, some of the Italians cannot understand the regulations of the road and the ordinances of the City. If it were printed in English…in Yiddish…in Greek, Italian and Syrian for the others it would prove to be a great aid to them.”
SVP did something about this problem last year, with the 5-language Vendor Power guide (which will be showcased at the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial opening May 15th. ) So why does Consumer Affairs still pass out a thick photocopy of the vending rules in no language but English? Do they want to be upstaged by D.C., which is now publishing its vending rules in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia?