New York City

Here’s why State Sen. Jessica Ramos wants the cap on NYC street vendors lifted

The City Council could take action, but it hasn’t.

New York City street vendors.

New York City street vendors. Marieke Feenstra

A new proposal, sponsored by state Sen. Jessica Ramos on Oct. 28, would lift the cap on street vendors in New York City, prevent legislators from regulating where vendors are permitted to go and clear vendors’ past “citations and misdemeanors related to sidewalk vending.”

“We need to start seeing street vendors for who they are: small business owners and, often, people of color – immigrants, women, seniors and parents who work in public spaces to provide food and other goods to our communities,” Ramos told the New York Post.

The cap on street vendor permits, currently at around 5,100, hasn’t changed much since the early 1980s, when New York City Mayor Ed Koch, irritated by their prevalence throughout the city, put a limit on the number of full-time (3,000) and part-time (1,000) vendors allowed. The decision was also a result of pressure from traditional brick-and-mortar stores who feared competition from street vendors. New York’s iconic hot dog carts and their ilk were further regulated during New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s tenure in the 1990s, when he attempted to ban push carts from Downtown and Midtown Manhattan.

Vendor permits last for two-years, cost $200 and can be renewed indefinitely, making it difficult for the people stuck on the city’s permit waitlist, which was about 1,450 names long in 2007. As a result of the permit cap, many vendors have chosen to set up shop illegally, either renting a permit (which is illegal) or going without a permit altogether. Permits being rented illegally can cost renters as much as $25,000, according to a report from The New York Times in 2016. It’s estimated that there are roughly 10,000 to 12,000 food vendors in the city, when vendors operating without a license are included.

There are also numerous street vending regulations in place, such as “vending in a restricted area,” that are strongly enforced by the New York Police Department, which handed out an estimated 18,744 vending violation tickets – a maximum fine of $1,000 – in 2015. In more severe cases, vendors might also have their equipment taken away by authorities. “Over the years, it’s become increasingly difficult for vendors to make a living through caps for vendor permits and the criminalization of the industry,” Ramos said. “We must end criminal penalties and let people grow our local economy.”

Ramos’ new proposal won’t be addressed until the state Senate’s session commences in January, but her new proposal may have some wondering how the issue of New York City’s street vendor permits became a state issue. Isn’t street vendor licensing the epitome of a completely local issue?

Ramos’ district in Queens is home to many of the city’s street vendors and while the New York City Council has reviewed a few proposals to expand the number of permits offered, vendors have yet to see things change.

In 2016, then-Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed the Street Vending Modernization Act, that aimed to double the number of vendor permits offered, create vendor specific enforcement and establish several other means of better regulating the city’s vendors. But in 2017, the legislation was abruptly shut down. “We don’t know why the mayor pulled the rug out,” Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project, told The Villager. “We thought that there was a deal, and suddenly there wasn’t. We don’t know what changed his mind. When you are fighting against the mayor, it’s very, very hard to win.”

In April, the Council considered additional legislation, similar to the legislation proposed in 2016, that would offer 4,000 new permits over the course of a decade, in addition to creating a new city-run enforcement unit to ensure carts were being run by permit-holders to eliminate black market permit sales and rentals. Ultimately, nothing came of the proposal, which was opposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and groups representing brick-and-mortar stores, such as business improvement districts. "I'm not here today to speak against vending. I'm a regular coffee guy at an illegally sited coffee cart," Jeffrey LeFrancois, executive director of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District, told Patch in April, regarding the proposed legislation. "But we cannot attempt to reform a system that has never been enforced while further giving away precious public space on our already crowded sidewalks."

Many brick-and-mortar establishments – as well as chambers of commerce and business improvement districts within the city – are fearful of the effect that such legislation would have on their business, despite readily available research that upends this argument. “Just eliminating the cap and putting thousands more vendors on the streets exacerbates the problems that already exist,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told the Post. “You (already) have people selling bagels and coffee for half the price in front of a brick-and-mortar store.”

NEXT STORY: Uber cap lawsuit dismissed

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.