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‘It’s chaos’: Councilman Moya voices concerns over unauthorized vendors, illegal prostitution in Corona

Council Member Francisco Moya voices concerns over unauthorized vendors and illegal prostitution in Corona (Photo by Michael Dorgan)

Aug. 4, 2023 By Michael Dorgan

A group of Queens Democratic officials held a rally in Corona Plaza on Wednesday, Aug. 2, where they criticized the Department of Sanitation for recently cracking down on unauthorized vendors operating at the location and City Council Member Francisco Moya, who is also a Democrat and represents the district, did not attend the demonstration as he supported the agency’s move.

In an exclusive video interview with the Queens/Jackson Heights Post shortly after the rally, Moya explains why he disagrees with his colleague’s stance, saying the sweep was necessary since the plaza — which was initially created to be an open public space — had become unsanitary, dangerous, and crime-ridden in large part due to the unauthorized vendors.

“What is happening in Corona Plaza and all along Roosevelt Avenue is just out of control, it’s chaos,” Moya says.

In the video interview, Moya explains how the area had become unruly, while he also voices his concerns over massage parlors operating as illegal brothels.

He says that residents and local business owners have long called for the area to be cleaned up.

“We’ve gotten significant complaints from business owners that are losing clientele because the vendors are setting up shop right in front of their own stores selling either the same food or the same products that are there,” Moya says. “The number of 311 complaints has grown astronomically.”

Watch the full interview below

Moya says that crime has also spiked at the plaza, with more than 75 felony arrests at the plaza so far this year. He says vendors had been operating late into the night, attracting intoxicated people to the location. And he alleges that drugs were also being sold at the plaza.

“That’s not bringing in commerce, it’s bringing in crime and that’s a real problem here. The residents have had enough,” Moya says.

Moya also alleges that some vendors are storing propane tanks under the elevated staircases to the 103rd Street–Corona Plaza station and says that one of the tanks exploded a few months ago. He says vendors were not disposing of trash properly, pouring grease down drains while others had moved cinder block planters in order to operate. He says that some vendors were operating on sidewalks around Corona, too, competing with local businesses.

“We cannot just have one group of people do whatever they like when we have business owners that are paying property taxes, paying rent and losing business,” Moya says.

The Queens officials who rallied on Aug. 2 — U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assembly members Catalina Cruz and Steve Raga, as well as Council member Julie Won — said that the vendors are only trying to survive and feed their families. They called for more permits to be issued so vendors could operate within the law at the plaza.

Unauthorized vendors operating on sidewalks (Photos provided by Council Member Moya’s Office)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Photo by Michael Dorgan)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the rally Wedneaday (Photo by Michael Dorgan)

Moya says he understands and empathizes with vendors who are looking to make a living, but he says they must do so in an orderly fashion.

He says he voted in 2021 in favor of the city issuing 445 new permits every year until 2032. The rollout is understood to be behind schedule.

However, Moya says that some of the unauthorized vendors would not be able to get a permit because they are selling food that would not pass a health inspection.

Moya says he has also proposed installing kiosks at the plaza or creating new zoned areas so vendors could operate there safely.

The council member also discussed illegal prostitution in his district, with many massage parlors allegedly operating as brothels along Roosevelt Avenue. He said it has become so prevalent there is a video on YouTube providing tips on how to negotiate prices for sex.

“I’ve never seen it out in the open and exposed like it is now,” Moya said. “If you walk there right now, you’ll see women standing out front soliciting for massages. We have to figure out ways to either close down those establishments or go after the landlords or whoever it is that’s allowing that to be operated in their storefronts, or in their buildings.”

He says the unauthorized vending and illegal prostitution can, in part, be linked to undocumented immigrants coming into the city. He said he fears many sex workers may have been trafficked here.

He called on the governor to issue a state of emergency in order to tackle the migrant crisis and for the federal government to allocate financial aid to help the city.

“We need our federal partners or members of Congress to tell the Biden administration that they need to help in terms of bringing real funding to help solve the crisis that we’re facing right now.”

Corona Plaza on Wednesday, Aug. 2, days after the sweep (Photo by Michael Dorgan)

Corona Plaza on Wednesday, Aug. 2, days after the sweep (Photo by Michael Dorgan)

Unauthorized vendors operating on sidewalks (Photos provided by Council member Moya's Office)

Unauthorized vendors operating on sidewalks (Photos provided by Council Member Moya’s Office)

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This isn’t fair. They let one race of people do whatever they want. But I have to pay rent ,taxes , payroll in my bar. I own the building too I have all these taxes to pay and vendors get everything free. Deport them.
They caught a prostitute in my bar and they closed us right down .
I don’t get it. Maybe I’m the wrong race.

jackson heights resident

We need more regulation in our neighborhood. It looks like a circus outside. The prostitution ring have been here for decades. When will they finally shut them down? More needs to be done!


It’s 2023. We need to stop allowing the pandemic to be an excuse and start vigorously enforcing the law around illegal street vendors. Sidewalks are public space for everyone. When a vendor sets up on the sidewalk, they are taking public space meant for everyone for their own private commercial use.

Peter James

Once again, the answer is in moderation. There’s no reason the vendors and restaurants cannot co-exist. Kicking them out is an easy solution, but it’s not a good one. I say this as someone just this morning who walked by the plaza and wondered where all the food went. It looked half vacant. It was vibrant with the vendors.

What I haven’t seen is a use of imagination and ingenuity. I tell everyone I know, local and tourist, to ride the 7 and walk the Corona/JH stretch under the El to see the real NY. It’s beyond great, yet no one knows about it. As for the sex workers, if you can’t help them, leave them alone. If you can help them, do it. My two cents.

patrick Ravey

Check out Diversity Plaza at Jackson Heights/37th Road and 73rd Street between 37th ave and Roosevelt. You can barely walk down the sidewalks. I understand the need to make a living. I don’t understand unregulated street commerce.


A special thank you to the 108th precinct. They
have shut down three
Prostitution storefronts
here in Woodside!!!


I would like to congratulate Council Member Moya on being a voice of reason in an increasingly deep sea of wrongheaded local politicians. Roosevelt Ave needs an overhaul. The sidewalks are filthy. Between the vendors, customers and people hanging out on the block, it’s much too overcrowded. Just yesterday afternoon, I could barely pass through walking west on Roosevelt Ave approaching 75th St between the various carts and tables and throngs of humanity. I know the vendors are just trying to make a living but the status quo is unfair to people going from point A to point B and, most especially, to legitimate businesses responsible for paying rent, taxes and payroll. The rule of law needs to be reestablished on Roosevelt Ave.


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