Testimony - Street Vendor Modernization Act - 1303

Thank you to the members of City Council for supporting this bill and for hosting this
hearing.
I am here today to testify on behalf of my organization, Drive Change, and in favor of the
passing of the Street Vendor Modernization Act.
This bill is – at its core – about access to opportunity.
Drive Change uses the food truck workplace to run a 1 year Fellowship for young adults
coming home from jail and prison.
I started Drive Change after working as a teacher on Rikers Island for three years. New
York is one of two states that automatically treats 16 year olds and older like adults –
there are over 1,000 teenagers on Rikers Island at any given time. There are nearly
50,000 16 and 17 year olds arrested in New York State as adults each year…all as adults.
While at Rikers, I witnessed a racist and classist system – nearly 80% of my students
were detainees who simply could not afford their bail. When a young adult is released,
employment and enrollment in school are often unattainable; some young returning
citizens cannot live in public housing – for my students, the roads ahead were paved
with red lights, stop signs and dead-ends.
The one place inside of Rikers where students were happy and thriving was a culinary
arts class. I thought, I think I can start a food truck business as the platform for a
workplace training Fellowship for my students when they are released from jail and
prison.
And that is what I did.
In 2012 I left my full time job and I started working on the Kimchi Taco truck to build a
network and learn the mobile food vending industry.

Drive Change, Inc.
630 Flushing Ave, 5th Floor • Brooklyn, NY 11206 • www.drivechangenyc.org •
(347) 921-3783

From the onset, I learned how challenging and outdated the regulations around vending
are in NYC. Creative, small business owners were being pushed out of a vibrant industry
because of intense start-up barriers and the inability to access the coveted city-wide
permit – at the time being sold for $30,000 on the black market.
Additionally, I witnessed first hand the cumbersome requirement of Certificate of
Authority filing for all employees that work on mobile vending units. The barriers to
even work for another vendor were intense and often forced people to incur fees.
I instantly realized that if it were not for our non-profit status and I would not be smart
to start a food truck in NYC. Drive Change would not exist.
Committed to working with the DOHMH, I decided to incorporate the Drive Change
truck (Snowday, a farm-to-truck concept that serves food sourced from within 150 miles
supporting local economy) and pursue a restricted area permit.
Let me be clear - The parking restriction has been a challenge for our operation.
Without parking contracts, we are not in a position to vend legally. Without vending, we
cannot run our Fellowship program year round, and the number of young adults
returning home from jail and prison that we serve is affected by this restriction.
Further, there are young adults coming home from the system and into Drive Change
that have their own entrepreneurial dream to start their own mobile food vending
business. Those dreams of self-employment and sustainability are squashed by the
current conditions.
Over two years, Drive Change has now worked with 19 returning citizens (men and
women ages 18-25) over two years. Our food truck won the Vendy Cup for Best Food
Truck in 2015. We struggle daily to find parking/vending options and that affects our
ability to run our Fellowship and impact the lives of our Fellows. Our program is at risk
because of the current limitations put on the industry.

Drive Change, Inc.
630 Flushing Ave, 5th Floor • Brooklyn, NY 11206 • www.drivechangenyc.org •
(347) 921-3783

All of the Fellows that have graduated Drive Change are now in full-time employment
opportunities or back in college full-time.
With the passing of this law, we hope that Drive Change and any mobile vendor that
agrees to use employment as a tool to support returning citizens – will gain access to
city-wide permits so we can expand the number of young adults that our organization
can work with annually.
We know that there are other food trucks in NYC who would like to affiliate with our
mission, a number of whom are in this very room.
At least 10 other mobile vendors have approached us asking about how they too can
use employment as a tool to turn red lights green for court-involved youth. We propose
that 3% or 18 permits be set aside for mobile vendors that affiliate with Drive Change.
Our vision for growth involves the development of a more efficient commissary, which
will also be an ecosystem for these mission-aligned businesses. The infrastructure of the
commissary will allow us to work directly with DOHMH and the City to ensure
regulation.
We commit to working directly with DOHMH to ensure regulation – to support small
business practices that are good for entrepreneurs and good for the city.

Sincerely,
Jordyn Lexton
Executive Director, Drive Change

Drive Change, Inc.
630 Flushing Ave, 5th Floor • Brooklyn, NY 11206 • www.drivechangenyc.org •
(347) 921-3783