Council Member and Advocacy Group Score Win for Street Vendors
Street vendors will have more opportunity to operate legally and less reason to fear punitive enforcement by police, under a new law spearheaded by City Council member Margaret Chin.
City Council member Margaret Chin, in partnership with a Lower Manhattan-based nonprofit, has spearheaded the passage of a new law that is poised to revitalize an economic engine of upward mobility for immigrant New Yorkers living near the poverty line.
On January 28, the City Council voted to enact a bill that will gradually lift the limit on the number of street vendor licenses issued by the City, which has been frozen at roughly 3,000 permits since 1983. This ceiling, which does not reflect the expansion of demand in the four decades since, has led to a proliferation of thousands of unlicensed vendors, who are vulnerable to punitive enforcement from a broad range of City agencies. The bill also creates a new City agency that will have primary responsibility for policing street vendors.
The bill, “finally puts an end to the underground market that currently preys on hardworking food vendors, the majority of whom are immigrant entrepreneurs,” Ms. Chin said. “The gradual release of new permits in tandem with the creation of a dedicated enforcement unit protects those who are already vending and creates a streamlined and transparent system for vendors, businesses, and the public. Food vendors have always been part of New York City’s small business community. In fact, many successful restaurants started their business from a food cart. Vendors contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of our City and they deserve to make a living in a legal, dignified way.”
Since at least the early 1800s, street vending has been a low-cost, low-barrier point of entry for immigrants into the City’s economy. Today, they generate an estimated $71.2 million in local, state, and federal taxes, and contribute nearly $293 million to the local economy.
But, in the early 1980s, when the City arbitrarily froze the number of permits (which are renewable every two years for $200—a fraction of their actual value), it unwittingly created a shadow market in which vending licenses have been leased by speculators to street cart operators seeking a lawful way to operate. (This dynamic mimics the price gouging practiced by holders of taxi medallions, another unintentionally created industry that came to serve wealthy investors, rather than individual proprietors of modest means.) Because of the high demand for these credentials, the holders of street vending permits were illegally subletting them for upwards of $35,000, as newcomers languished for a decade or longer on the City’s waiting list. In the meantime, people wishing to sell food in the streets, but unable to pay such a prices, have for generations been forced to risk heavy fines, seizure of their property, and the possibility of arrest.
“Street vending has been an economic platform for thousands of immigrants to survive and thrive in New York for centuries,” said Mohamed Attia, director of the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center, based in the Financial District. Mr. Attia, an immigrant from Egypt, who worked for nearly a decade selling hot dogs, halal chicken with rice, and smoothies from a street cart, reflected that, “ninety percent of the Street Vendor Project’s members are low-wage immigrant workers who rely on busy streets in order to survive day to day. Without a safety net to fall back on, they are forced to continue to work, risking their health and well-being in the process.”
Mr. Attia also observed that, “as primarily immigrant small business owners and workers, street vendors are ineligible for government support, such as paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, or even most loans and grants offered to small businesses, making an already-dire situation critical.” With the onset of the pandemic coronavirus, he noted, “many have been left with fear and confusion as to how they will support themselves and their families in the coming days.”
The passage of Ms. Chin’s bill follows another victory, last June, in which the Street Vendor Project (with Ms. Chin’s support) lobbied the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove street vendors from the jurisdiction of the NYPD, as a means of furthering social justice.
In addition to the creation of a new enforcement agency, Ms. Chin’s bill will require the City to issue as many as 400 new street vendor licenses per year, starting in 2022, for a decade.
The seconds are ticking. Day by day the local restaurants of Lower Manhattan are closing and passing away.
Why can the public shop in grocery stores and wine shops; take subways, buses and taxis; and not dine inside restaurants in small, controlled and tracked numbers on the coldest days?
These restaurants are the life successes of many talented and hard-working restaurant owners, the livelihoods of many others, and the breakfast, lunch and dinner stops of very many more.
Of course, during Covid, restaurants need to be highly regulated for public safety with set spaces and barriers between tables, temperatures taken and records kept, strictly limited numbers of diners, effective ventilation systems, uneven instructions for outdoor dining, etc. Constantly changing rules and procedures and the unrelenting threat of violations have made compliance extremely difficult and expensive.
When the NY State and NY City governments mandated indoor dining closure, they basically eliminated 60-75% percent of revenues for renters. Regardless of the lost revenue, the City and the State continued to require business-as-usual payments of permits/taxes/licenses. In addition, all insurance companies are demanding to be paid in full or all coverage will be terminated. For renters, rent/utilities/insurance are not forgiven but deferred, creating a vacuum of debt that 60-80% of them will be unable to repay, thus forcing them to shut down. Recent Downtown losses are Sale & Pepe and Blarney Stone.
For landlords, mandated forced indoor dining closure basically eliminated 80-100% percent revenue from renters income with the state mandate that landowners are not allowed to ask for rent or force an eviction for non-payment. Landlords are now in a major bind –– still mandated to pay all taxes, utilities, and mortgages as well as up-keep at their own expense. This is creating another vacuum of debt that small landlords will be unable to pay that will force the majority of mom and pop landlords into bankruptcy.
Why is inside-dining permitted throughout the State of New York and not in the City? If there is medical and scientific reasoning for this, the government is responsible for explaining why and working with restaurants to provide guidance to keep these businesses alive. Valentine’s Day has been set by Governor Cuomo as 25% opening day –– it is still two painful weeks away. Every second counts and the clock is ticking.
Bill Koulmentas of George’s Restaurant and Bob Schneck
Sounding A Lot Like the Leftists of 2011, Young Republicans Re-Occupy Zuccotti Park
On Sunday afternoon, several dozen members of the New York Young Republican Club gathered in the Financial District to protest alleged stock market manipulation by large traders, at the expense of individual investors.
Nonessential commuter and tourist helicopter flights are making New Yorkers’ lives miserable throughout the city due to the extreme noise and vibrations they create.
UWS, UES, midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island are additional areas to downtown negatively affected by these polluting choppers. As many of the tourist helicopters are currently based in NJ, and there are commuter flights to Newark Airport, many NJ towns are also feeling the pain.
(Also note that the Downtown Manhattan Heliport will likely fully return to its pre-pandemic tourist flights once the pandemic is over and if the lease is renewed, and that will compound the current helicopter problem being experienced during the pandemic).
NYC and the federal government have made commitments to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to combat climate change, yet the jet fuel guzzling helicopters (that are not a necessary mode of transportation) have for too long been allowed to proliferate in the NY metropolitan area.
Please sign and share our petition to ban these dangerous, polluting, noisy, stress-inducing, and unnecessary helicopters at www.stopthechopnynj.org
To the editor,
I love your newspaper, and I enjoyed, and learned from, your reporting on the Whole Foods bicycle loading station on Warren Street. It is a very controversial issue.
I just wanted to offer a correction on one piece of info mentioned in the article: the bike corral does not take up five parking spaces; it takes up two (it’s on a hydrant, so thirty feet of that zone is unavailable for parking, anyway). I know the parking isn’t the biggest problem, but still, I wanted to mention it.
Anyway, thank you for your work!
To the editor:
I was definitely going to vote for Yang but not if he’s not smart enough to know that it’s many of the poor people he’s trying to help that will use his universal income to try to win big at the casino to drag themselves out of their current situations.
And of course they will lose all their money and sit and wait for the next universal income payment. Poor people who can’t afford to gamble end up paying those taxes to the state. I’m seriously reconsidering my vote now.
To the editor:
I just read the article by Matthew Fenton on Andrew Yang’s proposal for a casino on Governor’s Island. (BroadsheetDAILY January 26)
I am so angry at Mr. Yang right now that I don’t even have words to describe it. A “casino” on that historic and beautiful island?? It will be ruined instantaneously. Let it be used for what it is now—like a Central Park for downtown.
Where you can truly relax and enjoy the beautiful views it offers that so many of us don’t have unless we commute to it. The Harbor View School is there along with so many other wonderful offerings at this time. I understand that the city needs money but there are other ways to get it. I’m comforted to hear that the Trust already put in place that casinos cannot be built there. Tell Yang he’s an idiot.
Quit Your New Year’s Resolutions Early
And Indulge In Restaurant Week
No judgment for those of you who will want to drop those new year’s resolutions (or whatever other health kicks you’ve got going on) after reading this PSA:
NYC Restaurant Week launched this week, as hundreds of hot spots citywide have been lining up special delivery deals through February 28.
Promotions include lunch or dinner with a side for $20.21, two-course brunches and lunches ($26) and three-course dinners ($42), mostly Monday through Friday. (Some participating restaurants are honoring those prices on weekends.)
Dozens of restaurants south of Chambers Street plan to take part in NYC Restaurant Week, including Brooklyn Chop House, The Fulton, Crown Shy, Stone Street Tavern, The Dead Rabbit and more.
The Restaurant Week website lists several more tempting options to treat yourself — even if it means playing it a little fast and loose with your commitments to fitness. (We won’t tell.)
On Thursday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio, at his eighth (and final) State of the City address, announced that a dedicated bike lane would be coming to the Brooklyn Bridge (with another slated for the Ed Koch Bridge) before the end of this year.
“The Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge are iconic and deeply intertwined in the daily lives of countless New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio said.
City Council Member Endorses Onetime Presidential Aspirant Who Favors Universal Income
Outgoing City Council member Margaret Chin (who is barred from running for reelection under term-limit laws) has endorsed Andrew Yang in his quest to be elected New York’s next mayor. To read more…
Eyes to the Sky January 25 – February 7, 2020
Sirius, The Big Dog and Thor’s Helmet
Sparkling, blue-white Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky, rises in the east-southeast 20 minutes after sunset this evening and will rise simultaneously with sunset by month’s end.
As twilight deepens, Sirius – from the ancient Greek Seirios for “scorcher” or “glowing” – appears above the skyline leading one of winter’s most alluring constellations, Canus Major, or The Big Dog, into the sky.
January’s Full Wolf (or Hunger) Moon rises at 4:55pm on Thursday the 28th as the Sun sets on the opposite horizon at 5:02pm. Twilight gathers half an hour later.
Astrophotography by Mario Motta, MD. All Rights Reserved
Hoping to Make Whirlybirds an Endangered Species
Nadler Sponsors Legislation to Make Lower Manhattan Heliopolis No More
U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represents Lower Manhattan in Washington, has introduced legislation that would impose stricter regulations on helicopter tour flights. Such flights have long been a source of quality-of-life concerns among Lower Manhattan residents, who have complained for years about the incessant buzz of engines passing directly outside their windows as often as three minutes apart. To read more…
Doyenne of the Estuary Departs
HRPT President Who Oversaw Build-Out of Waterfront Park to Step Down
Madelyn Wils, president and chief executive officer of the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) for the past decade, will step down February 5. In a January 19 letter to the Trust’s board of directors, she noted, “we are well on our way towards accomplishing our shared goals of completing the Park’s construction while ensuring it is also on solid financial footing.” She also cited a broad range of achievements in the ongoing build-out of the Park, including the September opening of Pier 26, in Tribeca, the beginning of reconstruction of Pier 40 (near Houston Street), progress on the development of Little Island and a plan for the Gansevoort Peninsula (both near West 14th Street).
Eileen Marie Collins was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle
1488 – Bartolomeu Dias of Portugal lands in Mossel Bay after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, becoming the first known European to travel so far south.
1690 – The colony of Massachusetts issues the first paper money in the Americas.
1787 – Militia led by General Benjamin Lincoln crush the remnants of Shays’ Rebellion in Petersham, Massachusetts.
1830 – The London Protocol of 1830 establishes the full independence and sovereignty of Greece from the Ottoman Empire as the final result of the Greek War of Independence.
1870 – The Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing voting rights to male citizens regardless of race.
1913 – The Sixteenth Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax.
1943 – The SS Dorchester is sunk by a German U-boat. Only 230 of 902 men aboard survive.
1960 – British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan speaks of “a wind of change”, signalling that his Government was likely to support decolonisation.
1961 – The US Air Forces begins Operation Looking Glass, and over the next 30 years, a “Doomsday Plane” is always in the air, with the capability of taking direct control of the United States’ bombers and missiles in the event of the destruction of the SAC’s command post.
1966 – The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 becomes the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon, and the first spacecraft to take pictures from the surface of the Moon.
1971 – New York Police Officer Frank Serpico is shot during a drug bust in Brooklyn and survives to later testify against police corruption.
1989 – A military coup overthrows Alfredo Stroessner, dictator of Paraguaysince 1954.
1995 – Astronaut Eileen Collins becomes the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle as mission STS-63 gets underway from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
1747 – Samuel Osgood, soldier and politician, first United States Postmaster General (d. 1813)
1809 – Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1847)
1811 – Horace Greeley, American journalist and politician (d. 1872)
1874 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright, (d. 1946)
1894 – Norman Rockwell, American painter and illustrator (d. 1978)
1904 – Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster (d. 1934)
1468 – Johannes Gutenberg, German publisher, (b. 1398)
1924 – Woodrow Wilson, historian, academic, and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)
1956 – Émile Borel, French mathematician and academic (b. 1871)