NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The New York City Council on Thursday will vote on a bill designed to lift the decades-old cap on vendor permits and create a new law enforcement unit to monitor street vendors.
The bill was introduced two years ago to increase the number of permits that the city gives out to street vendors gradually over the next 10 years.
Currently, there are 20,000 street vendors in New York City, but only around 3,000 of them have permits.
“For 38 years, we haven't seen any changes and this is a shame,” says Mohammad Atia, director of the Street Vendor Project.
He says street vendors are just trying to make a living, but the city has made it extremely difficult for them.
“Nobody should be criminalized for doing their work,” he said. “Nobody has to go to the underground market to pay $20,000 and $25,000 to rent someone's permit.”
However, some small businesses say the bill favors street vendors over brick-and-mortar stores struggling during the pandemic.
“People are dying. It’s a very complex time, it’s unprecedented,” said Wilma Alonso, executive director of the Fordham Road Bid in the Bronx. “Our businesses are resilient. We don’t have businesses that have been closing yet but, if this continues, it’s going to kill businesses.”
She wants the city to look at current laws surrounding street vending and make sure everything is up to code before they allow more vendors to take up real estate on city sidewalks.
With zero enforcement now, Alonso says the vendors have been crowding sidewalks outside of stores, violating social distancing rules and making it difficult for customers to find some storefronts.