Jeff Orlick

Iwantmorefood.com
Queens, NY

My name is Jeff Orlick. I created the Roosevelt Avenue Midnight Street Food Crawl and the
Tastes of the World tour in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Woodside and Corona, Queens. I also
create and organize events linking culture and food in New York City. My work in this industry
has been featured on national and international television as well as the Wall Street Journal,
New York Times, Daily News as well as many other publications and travel guides around the
world. Today, though retired from tours, I continue to lead travel journalists, professors, and
reporters around Queens and New York City, generally finding ways linking culture and food.
Doing tours and events in Queens has given me a unique perspective, giving me an opportunity
to understand tourists, locals, entrepreneurs, established businesspeople, and politics.
As I saw it, tourists came to me because they want the legendary​ ​Real New York. They want to
be immersed in our culture. Most of my guests are educated about NYC; they’ve read the
census report and they know they won’t find Italians it in Little Italy. And they know there’s no
food for New Yorkers in Times Square. They want the real stuff, not chains; they want nothing to
do with PR reps or copyright lawyers. They want to see the seeds of New York.
When I bring people to Roosevelt Avenue, their eyes light up with the buzz of the street. They
get dizzy from the IRT overhead and they are comforted by the rice and egg tacos from Tia
Julia. When they leave the street food on Roosevelt Avenue, they can’t wait to come back to
82nd Street on their next trip to New York. These are the pictures they are most excited to show
their friends when they get back to LA or London. This is the stuff the NYC tourism board should
go monkeys over.
100 years ago, it was the Jews, the Italians, and the Germans selling on the streets of New York
City - and today these are the surnames on the buildings and businesses that are iconic to us.
When I see the street vendors on Roosevelt Avenue, I see my family - who came from Eastern
Europe and created themselves in the Lower East Side. And every time I see the current ones
fined and confused, I see my own - trying, then being squashed. This is our future and our past.
I hear the city is trying to encourage small businesses to thrive. Well, these are our
micro-entrepreneurs, and you are strangling them. I heard they are thwarting Walmart and
supporting their own residents. With this current climate around street vendors, we are being
hypocrites. Believe what’s printed on the subway ads from Small Business Services, and
support the vendors. There are many ways that you can legislatively help, like creating a
specialized division for street vending, and, for now, adding to the permits is a great start.
The business of vending on this scale allows them to send their young children to school. It

helps them contribute to the character of the neighborhood. It encourages them to be the eyes
on the street. And it helps them to become a person with an identity. These are goals every
layer of NYC can agree to support.
This is not about mobile vs brick-and-mortar. This is about educating without suffocating. You
must choose the objective of these fines: ​To destroy or to correct.​ Do you want Maria the
tamale lady​ creating her own ​Maria’s Restaurante of Corona or to clean tables B
​ oston Market?
There are too many skilled people out there who have been forced to abandon their business
because there were too many obstacles to work for themselves. If you want your city
represented by Starbucks, Pinkberry, and Popeye’s, continue to leave things as they have been
for 40 years.
You can see the advantage chain stores have on us. Famous Famiglia, McDonalds, Taco Bell,
Walgreens. These are middle America big businesses that can absorb costs that individuals
cannot. When you keep these high fines and limited permits, you are promoting the sterilization
of our culture. You are eliminating our people. Our brick and mortars should be on the same
side as the street vendors - because when they destroy every other local businessperson on our
block, who will be left to support them on the last Starbucks-free corner.
Where do you want Maria? Cleaning the floor at Papa John’s?- or fostering her business to go
from tamale lady to ​Tamale Empire​.
The waiting list is 15 years for some mobile vending permits. No matter the fines that are
imposed, there will be more people trying to make a living by going outside and trying to sell
something to the public. Street vendors are not going away. Every micro-entrepreneur is a seed
for a new family in New York City. You have to realize that the street vendors are some of the
most powerless business owners in the city. You have the power to educate or suffocate. Do
you want Maria the Tamale Lady to starve or to thrive? You pick who you want to succeed in
our city: Sam Walton of Arkansas or your friends from the PTA. These are our neighbors. This is
our family. This is who we are.
-Bring on grading. Sell it as a concession. Everyone on both sides wants this. The street vendors
want to be considered legitimate. No one wants fear of the food or reason to be feared. We are
trying to uplift our residents and our life here. No better way to help customers and constituents
feel more confident than having a grade on a vendor. Vendors want to be given the credit for
being clean, and they don’t want dirty vendors bring their whole industry down. Yes, bring on the
grades.
Yours truly,
Jeff Orlick