May 22, 2017 By Jason Cohen
Two licensed street vendors, one from Jackson Heights and another from Brooklyn, are the lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed against the NYPD and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for allegedly throwing out food vendors’ carts and equipment without due process.
The Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center filed the class action lawsuit on April 27, alleging that the city is denying the vendors of their constitutional rights by dispossessing them of their property at the time they are issued with a summons. The suit charges that the vendors are entitled to a hearing before their property is confiscated.
Sanwar Ahmed, an 86-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who has a cart in Jackson Heights, is one of the two lead plaintiffs in the suit.
According to the suit, Ahmed’s cart was seized by two NYPD officers and two Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspectors on June 4, 2016 when he was issued with a summons for a violation of the New York City Administration and Health Code.
When the matter was resolved, Ahmed was allegedly unable to get the cart back and soon learned that it has been destroyed.
The other plaintiff, Ana Buestan, a vendor in Flatbush, claims that her cart was taken away by health inspectors and the NYPD at the time they issued her with a summons for allegedly violating the NYC Administration Code. Her cart was destroyed, she claimed, despite paying a $1,000 fine at a later date for the offense.
The suit claims that the plaintiffs experienced extreme hardship as a result of their carts been destroyed since they were denied their livelihood and their valuable property.
Matthew Shapiro, the attorney for the Street Vendor Project, said he wants justice not only for these two individuals, but for all the food cart vendors who have been harassed and dispossessed over the years.
The suit alleges that the dispossession of vendor carts is a widespread practice he claims.
In the lawsuit, Shapiro attests that of the 17,000 food vendors in New York City, countless have had their carts taken and trashed without due process.
The suit seeks to have the city change its policy on removing food carts from the streets and award all those vendors who were dispossessed of their property damages.