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Immigrant Rights Clinic

Contact: Jahnavi Bhaskar (240) 899-3276

Allison Wilson (917) 302-0755


October 26, 2016
We are former student advocates with the New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights
Clinic who submit this written testimony in support of INT. 1303-2016, which would expand the
availability of street vendor permits, create a vendor advisory board, and establish a street vendor
enforcement unit.2
First, the cap on the number of available permits imposes an enormous and unnecessary
financial burden on New York City. The City spends upwards of $7 million annually to issue and
process vending tickets. Though the City does not specifically track its expenditures for enforcing
vending regulations, this figure uses the limited data available to estimate the amount spent by the
four City agencies that are primarily responsible for vending enforcement: the Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH),3 the New York City Police Department (NYPD),4 the
Environmental Control Board (ECB),5 and the two City summons courts.6

The Immigrant Rights Clinic is a leading institution in both local and national struggles for immigrant rights. Students
engage in direct legal representation of immigrants and community organizations as well as in immigrant rights
campaigns at the local, state, and national level. The views contained herein do not necessarily represent the views of
New York University School of Law, which is listed for identification purposes only.
Allison Wilson and Jahnavi Bhaskar conducted this analysis during the 2015-2016 academic year in partnership with
the Street Vendor Project and under the supervision of Professor Alina Das of the New York University School of Law
Immigrant Rights Clinic.
DOHMH spends an estimated $1,587,200 to support 20 health inspectors and 7 lawyers who enforce vending
regulations. See DOHMH, Phone call with Ricky Wong, Director of Community Affairs (April 5, 2016); DOHMH,
Email from Chari Anhouse, Records Access Officer (March 18, 2016) (on file with authors); Erin Durkin, SWAT Dog:
Mayor Bloomberg sets aside funds to hunt down scofflaw street vendors, hoping to get millions in outstanding health
code fines, NY DAILY NEWS (Jan. 30, 2013), available at In 2014, the average yearly salary for a public health inspector
was $50,360, making the cost of 20 health inspectors $1,007,200. See OFFICE OF MGMT. & BUDGET, NEW YORK CITY
at Seven lawyers employed by the agency cost an additional
$580,000. See Erin Durkin, supra.
Vending regulations can be enforced by any police officer, so an estimate of how much NYPD spends on vending
enforcement is inextricable from the overall precinct budgets. The current budget of the one NYPD unit dedicated
specifically to vending enforcement, the Manhattan South Peddler Task Force, is not publicly available and was not
made available following a FOIL request. However, the Independent Budget Office reported in 2009 that this unit had a
budget of $4.5 million. See Doug Turetsky, Eddie Vega, & Bernard OBrien, Sidewalk Standoff: Street Vendor
Regulations are Costly, Confusing, and Leave Many Disgruntled, INDEPENDENT BUDGET OFFICE, 3 (Nov. 2010),

Washington Square Legal Services, Inc.

245 Sullivan St., 5th Fl.
New York, NY 10012

Out of this total expenditure of over $7 million, the City spends at least $1 million enforcing the cap
on licenses and permits. The City issued 25,300 tickets to vendors in 2014, over 3,000 of which were
issued for unpermitted food vending and unlicensed general vending, the two regulations affected by
the caps.7 NYPD alone spent over $600,000 enforcing the caps.8 The costs incurred by DOH,9 the
ECB,10 and the summons courts11 combined exceeded $400,000.
Increasing the number of permits and licenses would both help the City save some of the $1 million
spent annually enforcing the caps and would allow vendors to comply with the licensure and
permitting requirements.
Second, a dedicated street vendor enforcement unit, if properly trained and responsive to
street vendor concerns, would be both more effective and less costly than continued
enforcement by the NYPD and DOHMH. Vending regulations are incredibly varied and complex,
which makes it difficult for vendors to follow the rules and for City officials to enforce them. As a
result, a high percentage of tickets and summons issued to vendors are subsequently dismissed. An
analysis of data made available through the Citys Open Data portal shows that in 2015, 26% of
vending tickets returnable to the ECB and 44% of unlicensed general vending summons were
ultimately dismissed.12 However, these figures do not fully demonstrate the problem, as only 40% of
available at
With a total budget of $20.9 million, the ECB in 2014 processed 566,566 tickets for violations of city regulations,
24,463, or 4.3%, of which pertained to violations of vending regulations. See NEW YORK CITY BUDGET SUPPORTING
SCHEDULES, supra note 4, at 2851-63; OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIALS AND HEARINGS, Environmental Control
Board Hearings, available at; OATH ECB
Hearing Case Status, NYC OPEN DATA (last accessed May 1, 2016), available at https://data.cityofnewyork.
us/City-Government/OATH-ECB-Hearings-Case-Status/y6h5-jvss. Taken as a percentage of its budget, ECB spent
approximately $900,000 processing vending tickets.
The City does not make publicly available a separate budget for the two City summons courts. However, in 2014, the
total budget for the NYC Criminal Courts was $136,522,722, which was allocated between nine different courts. See
CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, 2014 Annual Report (June 2015), available at That year, the court handled a total of 1,094,193 cases 96% of which
were for summons, Desk Appearance Tickets, or misdemeanors. Id. 3,839 of these cases adjudicated summons for
vending violations, which, taken as a percentage of the courts budget, cost an estimated $478,993. Criminal Court
Summonses, NYC OPEN DATA (last accessed Oct. 22, 2016), available at
OATH ECB Hearing Case Status, supra note 5; NYC CRIMINAL COURT, Email from Shawn Kerby, Assistant Deputy
Counsel (March 7, 2016) (on file with author).
NYPD issued at least 11,400 tickets or summons in 2014. 1,542 of these tickets, or 13.5%, were for unpermitted food
vending or unlicensed general vending. OATH ECB Hearing Case Status, supra note 5. Taking this as a percentage of
the $4.5 million budget of the Manhattan South Peddler Task Force budget, this amounts to approximately $607,500
spent enforcing the caps.
In total, DOH spent at least $219,200 enforcing the caps. In 2014, health inspectors conducted 3,226 pre-permit
inspections and at least 7,500 on-street inspections. See Ricky Wong, supra note 3; OATH ECB Hearing Case Status,
supra note 5. 13.7% of these inspections resulted in the issuance of a ticket for unpermitted food or unlicensed general
vending. Id. As a percentage of the cost of health inspectors, this amounts to approximately $138,000. Seven DOH
lawyers allocated 14% of their time towards collecting fines for unpermitted food or unlicensed merchandise vending,
which, as a percentage of the cost of these lawyers, amounts to approximately $81,200. Id.
Out of a total of 566,566 tickets, ECB processed 2,171 tickets for unlicensed merchandise and unlicensed food
vending. See OATH Hearing Case Status, supra note 5. Taken as a percentage of its budget, ECB spent approximately
$80,000 processing these tickets alone.
885 out of 3,839 vending related summons were issued for unlicensed general merchandise vending. As a percentage
of the summons court budget, this equates to a cost of $110,400. See Shawn Kerby, supra note 7.
OATH ECB Hearing Case Status, supra note 5. Shawn Kerby, supra note 7.

vendors issued tickets returnable to the ECB challenged those tickets through a hearing.13 When
vendors challenged ECB tickets, 64% were dismissed, compared to 40% of tickets that were
dismissed at ECB-adjudicated hearings across all sectors.14 Only 36% of tickets are actually upheld
at an ECB hearing.15
Vending tickets issued by NYPD officers have an even higher dismissal rate. While vending
regulations are currently enforced by both NYPD officers and DOHMH inspectors, NYPD officers
are tasked with enforcing a much broader range of criminal and administrative violations as
compared to DOHMH inspectors. The relative specialization of DOHMH inspectors makes a
difference: among tickets returnable to the ECB in 2015, approximately 19% of tickets written by
health inspectors were dismissed, as compared to 33% of tickets written by NYPD officers.16 Each
dismissed ticket is a waste of City resources: both the resources put towards paying enforcement
agents, as well as the resources spent to adjudicate (and ultimately dismiss) tickets. The dedicated
vending enforcement unit envisioned by INT. 1303-2016, if such a unit were properly trained and
responsive to street vendor concerns, would be more effective in issuing tickets in a fair and clear
manner and would be a wiser use of City resources.
Third, establishing a street vendor advisory board to revise unnecessarily complicated vending
regulations will save City resources and allow vendors to better comply with regulations. Local
enforcement of laws regulating street vending is governed by a myriad set of complex rules and
regulations. Street vendors are subject to over 175 different regulations. These regulations span
across the various sources of law in New York City, including the New York City Administrative
Code, Health Code, and the Rules of the City of New York.17 Those tasked with enforcing these
regulations frequently get the law wrong, as demonstrated by the high ticket and summons dismissal
rates detailed above. Poor enforcement of unnecessarily complex laws wastes City resources and
forces vendors off the streets.
For these reasons, we support the City Councils efforts to afford street vendors the opportunity
to obtain vending permits, concentrate enforcement efforts, and regularize vending laws. This
legislation is an important first step and will go a long way towards ensuring that the Citys
policy towards street vending is both more cost-effective and more just.


OATH ECB Hearing Case Status, supra note 5.

Id. See also Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, Environmental Control Board Hearings (2015), available at
OATH ECB Hearing Case Status, supra note 5.
See, e.g., New York City Administrative Code: 17-321 (food vendors); New York City Administrative Code 20468 (general vendors); New York City Health Code 89.31 (mobile food vendors and vending units). The Rules of the
City of New York also regulate general vendors and food vendors. Title 6 (Department of Consumer Affairs), Chapter 2,
Subchapter AA of the Rules regulates general vendors. These rules were promulgated pursuant to Admin. Code 20-471
and are enforced under the same grant of power created in Admin. Code 20-468. Title 24 (Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene), Chapter 6 (Mobile Food Vending) of the Rules regulates food vending. These rules were promulgated
pursuant to Admin. Code 17-324 and are enforced under the same grant of power created in Admin. Code 17-321.

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