Eric Adams and the Looming Pushcart War
Can Black Democrats Address a Legacy of Business Exclusion in an Increasingly Diverse City?
Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee likely to become the city’s 110th mayor – and second Black mayor – will inherit an economy that hemorrhaged jobs in the pandemic. And his base of supporters, the African American residents in the outer boroughs, are among the most vulnerable in an uncertain recovery.
Many people took to street peddling without a license as a financial lifeline; in recent weeks, though, city inspectors have begun to crack down on such practices. While most aspects of a recovery are beyond the control of the next mayor, Adams would have one tool to promote the development of small business – the distribution of 4,000 new pushcart licenses.
Next year, the city will begin to issue new pushcart permits for the first time in generations. It provides the next mayor with an opportunity to not only improve oversight of the trade, but to compensate for old policies that undercut merchants in the Black community.
The new law could allow Adams to designate hundreds of pushcart vendors and ignite a new era of Black commercial activity. Street vendors generate more than $78.5 million in legal wages and an estimated $20 million in underground revenues, according to a City Council report. Currently, the city issues about 4,000 renewable pushcart licenses and maintains a waiting list of more than 1,500 applicants – and stopped accepting new applications long ago.