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Street Vendors Protest City to Offer More Permits To Sell

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Food cart entrepreneurs just want to legally work, they say

Street Vendor Project
Hundreds of people urged the city to offer more legal selling permits.
Facebook/Street Vendor Project

Hundreds of street vendors protested at City Hall on Tuesday to urge the city to offer more permits allowing street sales — including for food trucks and carts, the Daily News reports. The city only hands out 5,000 permits at $300 each for people to sell wares on the street, meaning that about 15,000 vendors operate illegally or spend up to $25,000 to rent a permit, according to the Street Vendor Project. The city initially instituted the cap to clean up city streets in the '80s, but the advocacy group argues that it's no longer necessary. "All they want is to be able to sell food," organization director Sean Basinski tells the Daily News. "They're not asking for government hand-outs; they just want a right to work."

Street vendors and food carts, like the ones selling hot dogs and coffee, must display a city-issued license with their name or they risk arrest. In a much-publicized case in 2014, one woman peddling jewelry on Canal Street was repeatedly arrested over a decade because the license belonged to her husband, who had a stroke and could no longer work. It took an article in the Times to finally get the license transferred. On Tuesday, 59-year-old Doris Yao said she has lost two of her three permits for Chinese food trucks and has since struggled to make enough cash. "We are street vendors and we don't go on welfare," she says. "We just want to work."

But there's a lot of opposition to raising the cap. Many groups say the Department of Health already has enough trouble monitoring the current permits for food safety violations, while others say street vendors clog the sidewalks as it is. The president of the 34th Street Partnership & Bryant Park Management Corp. characterized food carts as "unsanitary and unsightly," according to the report, and didn't want things to get worse. "Under present conditions, violations of food safety guidelines are rampant, and have been well-documented in news media reports," he said. "On that basis alone, city officials should not entertain, or bow to any pressure to lift the cap."