NYC street vendors march to City Hall to demand protections, revision of strict rules
New York City street vendors marched to City Hall Thursday to demand the city to put into place protections for them.
Sammy Saleh has been selling halal food in Times Square for 15 years, but he says this summer was particularly expensive due to minor violations.
“Over 100 tickets in the past three months,” he says. “You're not 18 inches away from the curb, you're not 10 feet away from the crosswalk…they don't even give you a warning.”
Police have seized Saleh’s cart more than once, but he says many of these rules are impossible to comply with.
“The police comes and measures. It's impossible for me to be 18 inches away from the curb because I have to be in front of the bollards,” he says.
Saleh and dozens of other fellow street vendors marched to ask the City Council to introduce legislation that would overhaul the street vending industry.
Their demands include more support from NYC small business services, additional locations where they can sell legally, and more civilian oversight as opposed to police enforcement.
They are also urging the city to lift the cap on the number of permits the Health Department can issue, which forces many vendors to sell without a license.
One vendor told News 12 he’s filled out the application for a permit several times but has always been left on the waiting list.
The council passed legislation that would gradually expand the number of permits in January 2021.
The city was allowed to start issuing 400 new street vendor permits in July of this year, but three months later, none of them have been issued so far. Street vendors also say 400 is still not enough.
The Health Department said in a statement, “The process is behind schedule — in part because we want to be responsive to the public comments we received in the proposed rules and give this feedback the deliberation it deserves. We are working as fast as we can."
Street vendors say all they want is to be able to make a living legally and without fear of retaliation.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection said in part, “Street vendors are a vital part of the New York City's economic landscape; however, everyone must follow the city's rules and laws. DCWP inspectors are committed to an education-first approach to vending enforcement, which includes the opportunity to comply before issuing violations."