Street Vendor Project 666 Broadway, 10th Floor New York, NY 10012 Summer 2003 (646) 602-5679

Board of Advisors
John Bao Prokash Das Gupta Massaer Diop Mohammad El-Madaawy Sophia Laskaris Vasily Shavandin Mike Wells

Vendors Unite at City Hall Hearings to Demand Overhaul of Regulations
At two packed City Hall hearings this spring, street vendors from around the city came together to demand changes to the city’s unfair and confusing regulations that made it so difficult for them to earn a living. In an unprecedented show of vendor unity, over a hundred vendors braved a driving snowstorm before the first hearing for a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall, on April 7th. City Council Members Charles Barron and Eric Davis spoke out forcefully in support of vendors. In front of more than a dozen news organizations representing radio, TV, and newspapers, vendors and their advocates complained about mistreatment from the police, Department of Consumer Affairs, and Department of Health. Vendors also highlighted the contributions they make to the city, stressing that they should like small businesses instead of criminals. Inside the hearing room, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra admitted that the vending regulations are like an onion, with so many layers that it makes you cry. However, when asked what she planed to do about it, she said she had no present plans to reform the system. Council Member Phillip Reed, chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, who agreed to hold the hearing after the Street Vendor Project’s request, came out clearly in support of vendors. He stated, “street vending is a historic tradition in our city, and unfortunately, this committee has heard many complaints from vendors that enforcement and regulatory policy is arbitrary and overly harsh.” Representatives from the Street Vendor Project, Local 169 of UNITE, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the SOHO Vending Alliance, the Latin American Workers Project, and the Chinatown Vending Association, among others, all spoke out against unnecessary and unjust regulations. The Street Vendor Project presented its report entitled, “Ten Ways to Improve Street Vending In New York.” During the first hearing, after Dykstra spoke for over an hour (and the Business Improvement Districts were given top billing to express

Director of Organizing
Lenwood Weathers

Project Coordinator
Sean Basinski

Summer Intern
Michelle Andrews

Vendors crowd City Hall steps for April 1 rally
their corporate, anti-vendor agenda), there was not much time for many vendors to speak. Dozens of vendors were given a chance to speak during the second hearing, on May 1st, but fewer media representatives attended, and only a few Council members sat through the event. Cheers to all the vendors and friends who came out for these events! Lets continue to raise our voices until our demands are met. Council Member Reed has promised a third hearing in August or September, where vendors and the City Council will gather information from the NYPD. The city won’t notify you, so make sure you’re on our mailing list to receive notice of this date.

• Fingerprinting, Veteran Bill Defeated, For Now — Page 2 • Bangladeshi Vendors Meet with City Council Member — Page 2 • Victory: Pigeon Case Dismissed — Page 3 • Mr. Softee Vendors Served Up Trouble — Page 3 • Police Seizing Books in Brooklyn — Page 3 • See inside for info on police complaints, volunteering, and more !!

Page 2

Fingerprinting Bill Defeated — For Now
A new state vending law that would have required fingerprinting of unlicensed vendors (even whose license had expired for one day!) was defeated in Albany on June 23rd, after the Street Vendor Project and a coalition of other immigrants rights groups lobbied against it. But the law, which would also ban all vendors on Broadway from City Hall to Bowling Green, will likely come up for a vote again this fall. Hopefully, vendors will be ready. The defeat of the bill was a victory for all vendors - who would have been given permanent criminal records, which could prevent them from later getting jobs or finalizing their immigration status. The fingerprinting requirement of the state bill would have dramatically increased vendor arrests, since fingerprinting can only be done while in custody. It would have also furthered a trend of treating vendors like criminals instead of small businesses. But the narrow defeat of the bill, which was help up the night before the legislature adjourned , should serve as a warning for all vendors to contact their state representatives. The effect of this confusing bill, which was made public just days before the vote, would have been serious. In addition to requiring fingerprinting, it would have banned all vending near Ground Zero but not just on Ground Zero itself, as was originally proposed. At the last minute, the no-vending zone was expanded to cover from West Street to Broadway, and Broadway from Murray Street to Bowling Green - a critical vending area for dozens of downtown vendors! With so many other downtown streets already restricted, this blow to the downtown vending community would have been devastating. The bill would have renewed the state restrictions on disabled veteran vendors; but would have also increased the number of vendors allowed in Midtown; allowed two disabled veterans per block instead of one, and allowed disabled vets to work with helpers. Since the bill did not pass, disabled veteran vendors may now vend without restriction—at least until September, when the legislature returns to session.

Get Involved !
• Are you registered to vote? • Do you know who your Council Member is? • Didn’t get this newsletter in the mail? Make sure you’re on our mailing list. • Have you met with the vendors on your block? • Need help writing a letter to your elected officials? • Need help with tickets?

Call (646) 602-5679 or (917) 825-7248

Bangladeshi Vendors Ask Council Member for Help
Members of the Bangladeshi vending community and the without a license because they were not “books.” Street Vendor Project met with City Council Member Alan Not all police officers are misbehaving, the vendors Gerson on Thursday, July 3rd to discuss ways to combat stated. But a notable few, like officer Sol from the 5th Preracial discrimination and police abuse against Bengali vencinct, have become notorious on Canal Street for yelling ethdors on Canal Street. nic slurs such as “go back to India” and These vendors, who sell mainly threatening the vendors (many American books and religious items, described a citizens) with deportation. history of abuse since September 11, Council Member Gerson agreed that 2001 by officers from the First and Fifth these instances of abuse are illegal and Precincts, in unacceptable. He volunteered to call 5th Lower Manhattan. Precinct Commander Captain McCarthy — FACING POLICE The vendors comwith whom he has a good relationship—to HARASSMENT ?? plained of being pass along these complaints. Gerson also banned from Canal agreed to arrange a meeting between the Make a police Street (even vendors and Precinct commanders in the though it is legally near future, to foster better communicacomplaint by open to them tion. “Street vendors are what make New calling “311” Prokash Das Gupta, Council Member Alan and non-Bengali Gerson, Faruk Hossain, Mohamed Mannan York so special,” Gerson said. One vendor present, Faruk Hossain, Get the badge # vendorsto are al- having their mer- said he was encouraged by the Council Member’s response. lowed set up), chandise broken by police officers, “I have been vending for almost ten years, “he said. “This is and a lack of respect for Hindu religious items, which like how I support my family. All we are asking for is basic reother religious objects may be sold without a license. One spect. I believe Council Member Gerson will help us.” vendor was even told his coloring books could not be sold

Page 3

Pigeon Case Dismissed
The Street Vendor Project won an important victory on June 11th, when an Upper East Side landlord’s unjust case against Eduardo Urbina, a general vendor on Third Avenue, was dismissed in State Supreme Court. The case claimed Urbina fed pigeons outside the Pier I home furnishings store, and demanded $50,000 in damages. Urbina denied the pigeon feeding but still was caused mental stress by the case, which required him to miss many days of work to attend court appearances. In addition to the law suit, the building regularly threatened Urbina and called the police and health departments. Luckily, Urbina had kept careful records and taken photos of other people feeding the pigeons right where he sets up his table! Witnesses from the neighborhood came forward, agreeing to testify for him. Soon, Urbina was circulating a petition at his table, collecting hundreds of signatures. He then turned to the Street Vendor Project, which linked him up with Milbank Tweed, a high-powered downtown law firm. With Milbank on the case filing lengthy legal briefs, the landlord quickly changed its course, dropping its request that Urbina move across the street. When Urbina stood firm, the building finally agreed to withdraw its case, never to harass Urbina again. Special thanks to Elena Agarkova from Milbank Tweed for working so hard on Urbina’s case.

General Vendor Eduardo Urbina declares sweet victory in his case.

Mr. Softee Vendors Confront Restrictive Regulations
The Project met with 20 ice cream vendors at the Brooklyn Mr. Softee garage on June 13th, in order to learn more about their problems and to lend our support. In addition to the food vending laws, ice cream trucks must deal with parking and sound regulations, like the restrictions on how often they may play their music. Ice cream vendors are also targeted by Parks officers (they must have a permit to vend within 350 feet of any park) and school personnel (vendors must stay 200 feet away from any school). But as the vendors explained, with 1,300 schools in NYC and nearly 4,000 parks properties (everything from Central Park to the tiniest sliver of ground), nearly every piece of land in the City is officially off-limits to vending. Also, many vendors were concerned with the safety of children: the school vending rule, which keeps the trucks away from schools, only forces many children to cross busy streets. Many Mr. Softee vendors also felt that the restrictions against them are not uniformly enforced against other vendors. Big thanks to Doc Guishard, of the Mr. Softee garage for arranging our meeting.

We always need vendors, their families and supporters to help translate, to assist other vendors at ECB hearings, make posters, make phone calls, schedule vendor meetings, work on the newsletter, you name it !!

Dial (646) 602-5679. Leave a message

Vendors’ Books Seized, Recovered
Two book vendors from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are back in their spots after their merchandise was illegally seized by officers from the 83rd Precinct on June 27th. Angelo Vega and Edgar Scott, who have sold instructional books near the corner of Broadway and Flushing Avenue for 4 years, were approached by officers demanding their licenses - even though no license is required to sell books. After writing tickets, the police added insult to injury by illegally seizing the books. Luckily, after the Street Vendor Project called to police headquarters at One Police Plaza, the vendors were able to recover the books from the precinct the following day. Vega, a former carpenter who volunteers every morning at nearby Woodhull Hospital before setting up his table, refused to be scared away “This officer is going out of his way to bust my chops,” he said. “He even said I couldn’t fly the American flag at my table. That was uncalled for. It was just done to discourage me.”

Book vendors Edgar Scott and Angelo Vega proudly display their wares

Street Vendor Project Summer 2003 666 Broadway, 10th Floor New York, NY 10012 (646) 602-5679 phone

individual rights • social change

The Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center was founded in October 2001 to provide legal representation, advocacy and grassroots organizing support to street vendors of all kinds in New York City. For more information, go to

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