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Jackson Heights Lawmakers Continue to Push for Street Vendor Bill

Street vendor in Jackson Heights June 2021 (Queens Post)

Jan. 24, 2022 By Max Parrot

Gov. Kathy Hochul plans to set aside $1 billion for small businesses in the next budget—but unlicensed street vendors are not eligible to get any of the funds.

Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas said a bill they have introduced to reform the street vendor system would address the issue.

The legislation is aimed at quickly expanding the number of licensed vendors by removing a cap on street vendor permits in New York City. Obtaining a permit would bring vendors one step closer to getting state aid, the legislators said.

“We know what a lack of licenses can mean for the small business owners who are working to provide for their families and communities. People of color who are answering the call to build and create are penalized and overpoliced because they lack the recognition that a business license grants them,” said Ramos in a statement.

The proponents of the bill will have to contend with critics who argue street vendors block the sidewalks and compete with brick-and-mortar shops and restaurants, many of which are immigrant-owned as well.

The governor’s Executive Budget includes relief for small businesses in the form of tax credits designed to help them survive the pandemic. The state also launched a small business recovery grant program over the summer. Both forms of aid require a business license to participate.

The state legislation would go further than efforts that the city has made to reform the street vendor system over the pandemic.

Last summer the City Council passed legislation that will create 4,000 new street vendor permits over the next decade, but that program is set to expand gradually, opening an additional 400 licenses every year, starting this coming summer.

The legislators pointed out that because the number of licenses in New York City will continue to be limited for the near future, unlicensed street vendors may not be able to register their business in time to be eligible for the relief outlined in the governor’s budget.

In addition to eliminating the cap on the number of licenses, the bill would make it so that selling without a license was not a criminal offense. Last January, the city formally transferred the responsibility of street vendor inspections from the NYPD to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection — a change that was celebrated by street vendors and advocates. The law would reduce the fines that unlicensed vendors would face from the DCWP as well as dismissing any remaining criminal prosecutions from before the agency took over enforcement.

Another proviso of the bill would ease restrictions on the hours and locations where vendors can operate. That’s not to say that the bill would eliminate all restrictions on vending, but it would create a standard that they need to stem from “objective health, safety, or welfare concerns.”

Mohamed Attia, managing director of the Street Vendor Project, explained that in the Mayor Giuliani-era a body called the Street Vendor Review Panel was in charge of implementing restrictions of vendors through a public complaint process. Vendors argued that the panel was overly sympathetic to the interests of big business and real estate. It created restrictions that were overly strict — many of which remain in effect, Attia added.

Vendors are not without critics in community organizations though. City Limits found that in the first nine months of 2021, the DCWP received over 4,000 complaints about street vending — many from business improvement districts, community boards and elected officials. But Attia insisted that the new standard would take a more balanced approach to restrictions that was focused on health and welfare concerns.

“It’s not gonna be based on some arbitrary requests from big businesses or real estate who have particular interests in making their areas or their blocks vendor-free,” he said.

González-Rojas pointed out that the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus supported the legislation in its 2022 People’s Budget.

“We need to pass A5081 to legalize street vending, bringing revenue back to our cities and state while honoring the valued contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs,” she said.

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8 Comments

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Stanley

I too desperately want my neighborhood back. Since as far back as last summer I have emailed Community Board 3 and even Elmhurst’s CB 4 to request of them to address these exact problems. Even though those emails included detailed info, photos and specific addresses of the most egregious offendors, I never received a response from them. This illegal street vendor problem will undoubtedly get worse as the warmer weather approaches. Join me in raising this into a serious concern that won’t be ignored any longer. Let’s get our beautiful, Historic neighborhood back!

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Joe

Because Roosevelt Avenue, Junction Boulevard, and Broadway aren’t too crowded, cluttered, and filthy as they currently are with all the street vendors we already have (and the store owners who use the sidewalks to sell all their wares). Give me a break!

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Cris

Street vendors dont pay taxes or rent..its unfare to those local small businsses..not in support of street vendors being legal..if thats the case stop taxing me so much every year

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Daniel

Do we really want our neighborhood to permanently turn into a seven-days-a-week flea market? I’d rather move somewhere else. Everything about this neighborhood is going down the toilet and our elected officials are pushing it in that direction.

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Maria

Agree 100%…I dont want my neighborhood looking like a dirty rat infested flea market 24/7 can barely walk on junction blvd and 82nd st..enough is enough!!..these vendors are not paying anything to make their messy stands all over the neighborhood

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Stephanie

Couldn’t agree more!! Junction is DISGUSTING…especially that corner on Junction and Roosevelt! They have food – uncovered – under the train tracks where who only knows falls into it. No safety precautions, no inspections. They OVER flow the garbage cans in the area, the street drains are covered in trash.

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Javier

Why not kill 2 birds with one stone? Since they’re closing off 34th Avenue to cars permanently, why not let them sell their stuff along the Avenue? Or will offend the high and mighty Co-op owners along the mile stretch? Or will they give everyone the NIMBY routine…

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Carol

Its not the high and mighty on 34 ave. Some folks have lived there for years and cannot afford to move anywhere else. Why should they have to shoulder the
burden of extra garbage from food vendors bringing more rats to the area. If you are not licensed, you should not be selling everything and the kitchen sink in the neighborhood.

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