October 26, 2016

To:

Speaker Mark-Viverito and Members of the New York City Council

From: Alfonso Morales, PhD, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
RE:

New York City Council Intro 1303-2016

I am supportive of increasing the number of mobile food-vending permits in New York City.
For 25 years I have researched marketplaces and street vendors and the lessons learned in my work have
been applied in jurisdictions around the country, including New York City. My research is published in
books, top peer-reviewed academic journals, and discussed in periodicals around the country. I work
with government and non-profit organizations enhancing communities through reintegrating vendors
into local economies. I see the opportunity to develop and realize mutually advantageous goals in New
York City by increasing the number of mobile food-vending permits. I will review three evidence-based
goals that we can all support.
First, increasing the number of permits makes for a more robust and resilient retail environment by
generating new economic activity and business relationships in the small business sector, which employs
so many people.1 Food carts and trucks make options available to people, they act as eyes on the street,
and generate foot traffic essential to store-front business. Food vendors establish supply chain
relationships and utilize products from warehouses that other establishments no longer desire.2 We can
expect ambition to increase with the number of vendors and they will have a need for support in
strategizing for growth and business succession. Increasing the number of permits is one type of legal
and organizational support vendors need to help them develop and realize their goals.
Second, increasing the number of permits will reduce the current black market in permits and replace
that market with legitimate means to business. The current situation forces people to decide against
legitimate business and creates exploitative relationships in the rental of permits. The City should seek
regulatory approaches generative of economic and social opportunity. 3 Increasing the number of permits
fosters people’s interest in legitimate business practices and increases and supports their integration into
banking and credit systems, and other aspects of the business practices essential to a robust economy.4
Third, increasing the number of permits will amplify economic and social benefits and opportunities for
families, particularly immigrants, women and children. My research, shows how food carts and trucks
Department of Urban and Regional Planning University of Wisconsin-Madison
104 Old Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1317
608/262-1004
Fax: 608/262-9307
www.urpl.wisc.edu

stimulates people’s imagination, making their life experiences relevant to their present moment.5
Vending presents an opportunity for people to transform their experience into realistic goals they can
obtain.6 Further, the hard work of vendors, their visibility, and independence helps reconstruct
stereotypes some people have of this important activity. Family and friends exemplify an important
work ethic and earn income to advance their ambitions.7 Such businesses also support families in
securing capital for further entrepreneurship. Finally, and importantly, various non-economic benefits
obtain to neighborhoods and their vendors, such as eyes on the street, work experience for youth, and the
sense of community that vendors help create.8
Finally, the City should recognize that value of their implementation strategy. Increasing the number of
permits over the next several years accommodates the interests of store-front business, fosters
imagination and subsequent planning among those interested in business, and allows for the evaluation
of the increased number of permits, the modification of enforcement processes, and especially for the
creation of support structures vendors need for growing their businesses. The increased cost of vending
permits should support the business aspirations of all, store-front and street, through the enforcement of
mobile vending statute, by providing support services to these ambitious entrepreneurs, and by helping
mobile vendors spread the benefit of their hard work throughout this great city.
1

Morales, Alfonso. 2011. “Public Markets: Prospects for Social, Economic, and Political Development.” Journal of Planning Literature.
26(3): 3-17.
2
Gaber, John. “Manhattan’s 14th Street Vendors’ Market: Informal Street Peddlers’ Complementary Relationship With New York City’s
Economy.” Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 23, no. 4 (1994): 373–408.
3
Morales, Alfonso, Steve Balkin and Joe Persky. 1995. “Contradictions and Irony in Policy Research on the Informal Economy: A Reply.”
Economic Development Quarterly. 9(4): 327-330. Morales, Alfonso. 2000. “Peddling Policy: Street Vending in Historical and
Contemporary Context.” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 20(3/4): 76-99. Morales, Alfonso. 2012. “Understanding
and Interpreting Tax Compliance Strategies Among Street Vendors.” Chapter 5 in The Ethics of Tax Evasion: Perspectives in Theory and
Practice. Robert McGee, (editor). Springer, New York & Dordrecht, (pp 83-106).
4
Morales, Alfonso and Gregg Kettles. 2009. “Healthy Food Outside: Farmers’ Markets, Taco Trucks, and Sidewalk Fruit Vendors.”
Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy. 26(1): 20-48.
5
Morales, Alfonso. 2009. “Public Markets as Community Development Tools.” Journal of Planning Education and Research. 28(4): 426440.
6
Basinski, Sean, Mathew Shapiro and Alfonso Morales, (2017). Stuck in Park: New York City’s War on Food Trucks. In Cultivating Food
Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability. Julian Agyeman, (editor). Cambridge: MIT University Press.
7
Morales, Alfonso. 2009. “A Woman’s Place is on the Street: Purposes and Problems of Mexican American Women Entrepreneurs.” In
Wealth Creation and Business Formation Among Mexican-Americans: History, Circumstances and Prospects. John S. Butler, Alfonso
Morales, and David Torres, (editors). West Lafayette, Purdue University Press, (pp 99-125). Morales, Alfonso. 2012. “Understanding and
Interpreting Tax Compliance Strategies Among Street Vendors.” Chapter 5 in The Ethics of Tax Evasion: Perspectives in Theory and
Practice. Robert McGee, (editor). Springer, New York & Dordrecht, (pp 83-106).
8
Morales, Alfonso, Steve Balkin and Joe Persky. 1995. "The Value of Benefits of a Public Street Market: The Case of Maxwell Street."
Economic Development Quarterly. 9(4): 304-320.