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Street News Summer 2003

Street News Summer 2003

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Published by: Street Vendor Project on Aug 21, 2009
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At two packed City Hall hear-ings this spring, street vendorsfrom around the city cametogether to demand changesto the city’s unfair and confus-ing regulations that made it sodifficult for them to earn aliving.In an unprecedented showof vendor unity, over a hun-dred vendors braved a drivingsnowstorm before the firsthearing for a rally and pressconference on the steps of City Hall, on April 7th. CityCouncil Members CharlesBarron and Eric Davis spokeout forcefully in support of vendors.In front of more than adozen news organizations rep-resenting radio, TV, andnewspapers, vendors and theiradvocates complained aboutmistreatment from the police,Department of Consumer Af-fairs, and Department of Health. Vendors also high-lighted the contributions theymake to the city, stressing thatthey should like small busi-nesses instead of criminals.Inside the hearing room,Consumer Affairs Commis-sioner Gretchen Dykstra ad-mitted that the vending regu-lations are like an onion, withso many layers that it makesyou cry. However, whenasked what she planed to doabout it, she said she had nopresent plans to reform thesystem.Council Member PhillipReed, chair of the ConsumerAffairs Committee, whoagreed to hold the hearingafter the Street Vendor Pro- ject’s request, came outclearly in support of vendors.He stated, “street vending isa historic tradition in ourcity, and unfortunately, thiscommittee has heard manycomplaints from vendors thatenforcement and regulatorypolicy is arbitrary and overlyharsh.”Representatives from theStreet Vendor Project, Local169 of UNITE, the PuertoRican Legal Defense andEducation Fund, the SOHOVending Alliance, the LatinAmerican Workers Project,and the Chinatown VendingAssociation, among others,all spoke out against unnec-essary and unjust regulations.The Street Vendor Projectpresented its report entitled,“Ten Ways to Improve StreetVending In New York.”During the first hearing,after Dykstra spoke for overan hour (and the BusinessImprovement Districts weregiven top billing to expresstheir corporate, anti-vendoragenda), there was not much timefor many vendors to speak. Doz-ens of vendors were given achance to speak during the sec-ond hearing, on May 1st, butfewer media representatives at-tended, and only a few Councilmembers sat through the event.Cheers to all the vendors andfriends who came out for theseevents! Lets continue to raise ourvoices until our demands are met.Council Member Reed haspromised a third hearing in Au-gust or September, where ven-dors and the City Council willgather information from theNYPD. The city won’t notifyyou, so make sure you’re on ourmailing list to receive notice of this date.
Vendors Unite at City Hall Hearings toDemand Overhaul of Regulations
Street Vendor Project Summer 2003666 Broadway, 10th FloorNew York, NY 10012 (646) 602-5679
Vendors crowd City Hall steps forApril 1 rally
Fingerprinting, VeteranBill Defeated, For Now —Page 2
Bangladeshi VendorsMeet with City CouncilMember —Page 2
Victory: Pigeon CaseDismissed —Page 3
Mr. Softee VendorsServed Up Trouble Page 3
Police Seizing Books inBrooklyn —Page 3
See inside for info onpolice complaints,volunteering, andmore !!
Board of Advisors
John BaoProkash Das GuptaMassaer DiopMohammad El-MadaawySophia LaskarisVasily ShavandinMike Wells
Director of Organizing
Lenwood Weathers
Project Coordinator
Sean Basinski
Summer Intern
Michelle Andrews
A new state vending law thatwould have required finger-printing of unlicensed ven-dors (even whose license hadexpired for one day!) wasdefeated in Albany on June23rd, after the Street VendorProject and a coalition of other immigrants rightsgroups lobbied against it.But the law, which wouldalso
ban all vendors onBroadway from City Hall toBowling Green
, will likelycome up for a vote again thisfall. Hopefully, vendors willbe ready.The defeat of the bill was avictory for all vendors - whowould have been given per-manent criminal records,which could prevent themfrom later getting jobs orfinalizing their immigrationstatus. The fingerprintingrequirement of the state bill
Fingerprinting Bill Defeated — For Now
Page 2
Street to Broadway, andBroadway from
 Murray Street to Bowling Green -
a criticalvending area for dozens of downtown vendors! With somany other downtown streetsalready restricted, this blow tothe downtown vending com-munity would have been dev-astating.The bill would have re-newed the state restrictions ondisabled veteran vendors; butwould have also increased thenumber of vendors allowed inMidtown; allowed two dis-abled veterans per block in-stead of one, and allowed dis-abled vets to work with help-ers. Since the bill did not pass,disabled veteran vendors maynow vend without restric-tion—at least until September,when the legislature returns tosession.
Get Involved !
Are you registered tovote?
Do you know whoyour Council Memberis?
Didn’t get this news-letter in the mail?Make sure you’re onour mailing list.
Have you met with thevendors on your block?
Need help writing aletter to your electedofficials?
Need help with tick-ets?
Call(646) 602-5679 or(917) 825-7248
Bangladeshi Vendors Ask Council Member for Help
would have dramatically in-creased vendor arrests, sincefingerprinting can only bedone while in custody. Itwould have also furthered atrend of treating vendors likecriminals instead of smallbusinesses.But the narrow defeat of thebill, which was help up thenight before the legislatureadjourned , should serve as awarning for all vendors to con-tact their state representatives.The effect of this confusingbill, which was made public just days before the vote,would have been serious. Inaddition to requiring finger-printing, it would have bannedall vending near Ground Zero -but not just on Ground Zeroitself, as was originally pro-posed. At the last minute, theno-vending zone was ex-panded to cover from WestMembers of the Bangladeshi vending community and theStreet Vendor Project met with City Council Member AlanGerson on Thursday, July 3rd to discuss ways to combatracial discrimination and police abuse against Bengali ven-dors on Canal Street.These vendors, who sell mainlybooks and religious items, described ahistory of abuse since September 11,2001 by officers from the First and FifthPrecincts, inLower Manhattan.The vendors com-plained of beingbanned from CanalStreet (eventhough it is legallyopen to themand non-Bengalivendors are al-lowed to set up), having their mer-chandise broken by police officers,and a lack of respect for Hindu religious items, which likeother religious objects may be sold without a license. Onevendor was even told his coloring books could not be soldwithout a license because they were not “books.”Not all police officers are misbehaving, the vendorsstated. But a notable few, like officer Sol from the 5th Pre-cinct, have become notorious on Canal Street for yelling eth-nic slurs such as “go back to India” andthreatening the vendors (many Americancitizens) with deportation.Council Member Gerson agreed thatthese instances of abuse are illegal andunacceptable. He volunteered to call 5thPrecinct Commander Captain McCarthy —with whom he has a good relationship—topass along these complaints. Gerson alsoagreed to arrange a meeting between thevendors and Precinct commanders in thenear future, to foster better communica-tion. “Street vendors are what make NewYork so special,” Gerson said.One vendor present, Faruk Hossain,said he was encouraged by the Council Member’s response.“I have been vending for almost ten years, “he said. “This ishow I support my family. All we are asking for is basic re-spect. I believe Council Member Gerson will help us.”
FACING POLICEHARASSMENT ??Make a policecomplaint bycalling “311”Get the badge #
Prokash Das Gupta, Council Member AlanGerson, Faruk Hossain, Mohamed Mannan
The Street Vendor Projectwon an important victory onJune 11th, when an UpperEast Side landlord’s unjustcase against Eduardo Urbina,a general vendor on ThirdAvenue, was dismissed inState Supreme Court.The case claimed Urbinafed pigeons outside the Pier Ihome furnishings store, anddemanded $50,000 in dam-ages. Urbina denied the pi-geon feeding but still wascaused mental stress by thecase, which required him tomiss many days of work toattend court appearances. Inaddition to the law suit, thebuilding regularly threatenedUrbina and called the policeand health departments.Luckily, Urbina had keptcareful records and taken pho-tos of other people feeding thepigeons right where he sets uphis table! Witnesses from theneighborhood came forward,agreeing to testify for him.Soon, Urbina was circulatinga petition at his table, collect-ing hundreds of signatures.He then turned to the StreetVendor Project, which linkedhim up with Milbank Tweed,a high-powered downtownlaw firm. With Milbank onthe case filing lengthy legalbriefs, the landlord quicklychanged its course, droppingits request that Urbina moveacross the street. When Ur-bina stood firm, the buildingfinally agreed to withdraw itscase, never to harass Urbinaagain.
Special thanks to Elena Agarkova from Milbank Tweed for working so hard onUrbina’s case.
ing their licenses - eventhough no license is requiredto sell books.After writing tickets, thepolice added insult to injuryby illegally seizing the books.Luckily, after the Street Ven-dor Project called to policeheadquarters at One PolicePlaza, the vendors were ableto recover the books from theprecinct the following day.Two book vendors from Wil-liamsburg, Brooklyn, are back in their spots after their mer-chandise was illegally seizedby officers from the 83rd Pre-cinct on June 27th.Angelo Vega and EdgarScott, who have sold instruc-tional books near the cornerof Broadway and FlushingAvenue for 4 years, were ap-proached by officers demand-Vega, a former carpenterwho volunteers every morn-ing at nearby Woodhull Hos-pital before setting up histable, refused to be scaredaway “This officer is goingout of his way to bust mychops,” he said. “He even saidI couldn’t fly the Americanflag at my table. That wasuncalled for. It was just doneto discourage me.”
Pigeon Case Dismissed
Vendors’ Books Seized, Recovered
General Vendor Eduardo Urbinadeclares sweet victory in his case.Book vendors Edgar Scott and AngeloVega proudly display their wares
(they must have a permit tovend within 350 feet of anypark) and school personnel(vendors must stay 200 feetaway from any school).But as the vendors ex-plained, with 1,300 schools inNYC and nearly 4,000 parksproperties (everything fromCentral Park to the tiniestsliver of ground),
nearly every piece of land 
in the City isofficially off-limits to vend-ing. Also, many vendors wereconcerned with the safety of children: the school vendingrule, which keeps the trucksaway from schools, onlyforces many children to crossbusy streets. Many Mr.Softee vendors also felt thatthe restrictions against themare not uniformly enforcedagainst other vendors.
 Big thanks to Doc Guishard,of the Mr. Softee garage for arranging our meeting.
Mr. Softee Vendors Confront Restrictive Regulations
The Project met with 20 icecream vendors at the Brook-lyn Mr. Softee garage on June13th, in order to learn moreabout their problems and tolend our support.In addition to the foodvending laws, ice creamtrucks must deal with parkingand sound regulations, likethe restrictions on how oftenthey may play their music.Ice cream vendors are alsotargeted by Parks officers
We always need vendors,their families andsupporters to help translate,to assist other vendors atECB hearings, make posters,make phone calls, schedulevendor meetings, work onthe newsletter, you nameit !!
Dial (646) 602-5679.Leave a message
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