City looks to ease street vending regulations 

May 25, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday, May 25, made public several proposals to help reform and modernize street vending regulations for New Yorkers.

The steps being made are designed to cut red tape for street vendors and make sure they are safe for their customers. 

A report released to the City Council contained the recommendations, which have been made by the Street Vendor Advisory Board (SVAB). The board consists of  stakeholders representing city agencies, street vendors, retail food stores, property owners, small businesses and community organizations.

The objective is to balance street vendors’ needs, the concerns of brick-and-mortar businesses and consumers’ needs, while at the same time expanding economic opportunity and safety.

“Street vendors are an integral part of New York City’s economy, and give communities across our city their unique character, which is why I am thankful the Street Vendor Advisory Board has taken a collaborative and inclusive approach to addressing street vending,” said Adams. 

“Together, we can balance the needs of street vendors, brick-and-mortar businesses, and residents. These recommendations do just that by cutting red tape, creating new opportunities for street vendors to operate legally, and improving access to healthy food throughout the five boroughs,” he added.

The recommendations include introducing business supports tailored to street vendors at New York City’s Department of Small Business Services, and enhancing the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Green Cart Program to improve access to fresh produce for NYCHA residents.

Street vendors set up in the Sunset Park area. Eagle file photo by Jaime DeJesus

The recommendations also look to cut red tape by simplifying requirements about the display of goods, repealing bookkeeping requirements, allowing mobile food vendors to keep goods on top of carts, and repealing criminal liability for general and mobile food vendors. 

They would also direct the New York City Department of Transportation to study and pilot the feasibility of new opportunities for street vending at pedestrian plazas, municipal parking lots and metered parking spots.

“Our city’s street food vendors provide so much for our city — including access to affordable foods and cultural delicacies,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Thank you to Mayor Adams and to the members of the advisory board for their continued partnership in creating a fairer environment for our vendors to thrive in.”

Another recommendation would repeal and replace the inactive Street Vendor Review Panel with a new body that would review and amend time, place, and manner restrictions to street vending, which have not been updated for decades.

“Thanks to Mayor Adams’ leadership, we look forward to taking a fresh look at how our public space and facilities could efficiently host some of New York City’s hard-working vendors and boost economic development,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Vendors from our immigrant communities play a vital role in our entrepreneurial economy — we must find ways to advance their needs while also balancing those of pedestrians and local businesses.”

Sunset Park Business Improvement Director David Estrada is a SVAB member and discussed the group’s importance in a joint statement with Regina Myer, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

“Street vending is an important part of our city’s culture,” they said. “Mayor Adams’ swift response to the Street Vendor Advisory Board’s report is a good step toward fully re-envisioning private commerce in public places. We can honor the needs of residents, businesses, and everyone’s quality of life if we manage our shared spaces with fair rules and consistent enforcement.”

Local Law 18 of 2021 requires the SVAB to review and evaluate all state and city laws and rules that regulate street vending in New York City, in addition to proposing recommendations for reform, which have been submitted to the City Council.

The announcement comes just nearly a month after police handcuffed a vendor who was allegedly selling fruit and snacks at the Broadway Junction subway station in Brooklyn without a permit.

At the time, Adams defended the actions.

“If people are just selling food without any form of insurance of the quality of that food, someone could get ill from that,” he said during a conference Monday, May 9. “That’s why there are rules in the subway system. Now, if I allow anyone to sell anything and someone gets sick, a large number of people get sick, you guys are going to be writing, ‘Eric is allowing people to circumvent the Department of Health standards.’”

The Adams administration will work alongside the City Council on recommendations where legislation is required, while moving forward immediately with implementing new programs and amending relevant administrative rules. 

The NYC Street Vendor Justice Coalition said that the move is a big first step in updating the city’s decades-old, inefficient and unfair vending system, but would like changes. 

“We are excited by these common-sense, practical, and impactful police suggestion,” they wrote in a statement. “However, the city must consider bolder steps towards reforming the system to ensure that every street vendor in our city can formalize their businesses and earn a living without being treated as a criminal.”

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