We missed this original City Room post about Park Avenue fruit vendor Nurul Alam, whose upper-crust customers got worried when he disappeared from their corner in October. It turns out Alam was picked up by the immigration authorities and held in detention for three months. Luckily, as Susan Dominus updated today, those same customers helped obtain his release from jail, at least pending his next hearing. A heartwarming story, but we have to wonder, like commenters George and David, what would have happened if Alam didn’t have friends in high places? And how many other there are like him who we never hear about?
The last few years have brought transportation policy reform to New York City. Three hundred miles of bike lanes have been added, and part of Times Square was even turned into a pedestrian plaza. But why are street vendors absent from this discussion? Other cities recognize that vendors are an important part of making public spaces livable. In Portland, for example, this excellent report (sent by Professor Irene Tinker) concluded that “food carts have positive impacts on street vitality and neighborhood life.” This paper, out of India, found that vendors are “essential as a part of [the] transportation planning process.” Maybe somebody over at the excellent Streetsblog needs to pick up the vendor beat.
UPDATE: We just saw this — how does the City of New York write a 236-page “Street Design Manual” and mention street vendors only once, in passing (on page 65)?
Much more to report on this topic, but for now, take note! SVP will be co-presenting what (we believe) is the first-ever U.S. conference on street vendors, May 14-15, 2010 in Los Angeles. Exciting! The event will be attended by both academics and street vendor advocates & activists. For now, if you want to present your academic work, take a look at this Request for Papers. Abstracts are due January 22nd. If you need some inspiration, check out Illegibility, Uncertainty and the Management of Street Vending in New York City, and oldie but a goodie by friend-of-SVP Ryan Devlin.
While State Senator Dan Squadron is now coordinating meetings between vendors and brick-and-mortar establishments (thanks, Senator Squadron!) anyone who still wants vendors fingerprinted for parking their cart an inch too close to the crosswalk should consider Murat Celebi-Ariner. The popular San Francisco quiche and muffin vendor (left) was arrested by immigration authorities and quickly deported this month, even though he is married to a US citizen. You see? Draconian laws have consequences, and sometimes they are extremely unfair. We support you from NYC, Murat!
In the suburbs, people have garage or yard sales to get rid of old stuff they have lying around the house. Especially when times are tough, like now. In New York, if you’re lucky enough to have a stoop, you can have a stoop sale. But in LA, poor people have to sell their junk on the sidewalk. Then the police come and take it away. Or so reports the LA Times, in this recent article about vendors, professional and ameteur, around Echo Park. Our LA correspondent Rocky Ramirez wrote in with a similarly heartbreaking report (complete with photos) from LA’s Koreatown, where he lives. Thanks for getting involved, Rocky!
By all accounts, Los Angeles is the second most important vending city in the U.S. of A. But you would think those progressive Californians would have learned from NYC’s mistakes. Instead, they are cracking down on their famous taco trucks and throwing vendors in jail for selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs. This video will blow you away: thanks to Mike at Reason TV for sending it along. This bacon-dog fiasco is virtually exactly what happened with knishes (our own trademark street cuisine) in New York a few years ago. Just what are all these health inspectors “protecting” us from?
With Rudy Giuliani riding high in the national polls, it is interesting to look back at his relationship, circa 1998, with street vendors. Here is a fascinating NPR piece theorizing that Rudy’s attack on mobile food vendors was actually a scheme to broaden his national appeal. If going after hard-working immigrants plays well in middle America, we’ll stick to local politics. Maybe SVP should do a video like the firefighters did.
More evidence that we need a national vendors’ project: Jefferson Parish, outside of New Orleans, has recently banned the taco trucks that have sprung up there after Hurricane Katrina, mostly to service the Latino clean-up and construction workers. The reasons given? “Congestion” and “food safety” they say, masking the usual, real reason: fear of “the other” by more powerful special interests. Should sound familiar, but too bad it had to happen in New Orleans, which has a history of welcoming different cultures.
The Associated Press ran a nice article today on hot dog vendors and their struggles — something that we all should be thinking about during this frigid weather. SVP members Kazi Hossain (left) and Mohammed Meah were quoted, and the article got picked up all over — in Business Week, Forbes, and Newsday, among others.