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NSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE Statement of Dick M. Carpenter I, PhD Director of Strategic Research, Institute for Justice in support of lifting New York City’s caps on mobile food vending permits Speaker Mark-Viverito and Members of the New York City Council: On behalf of the Institute for Justice (LI), I write in support of lifting the caps on New York City’s mobile food-vending permits. IJ is a national public-interest, civil-liberties law firm that advocates in the courts of law and public opinion to vindicate the constitutional right of all Americans to earn an honest living. For years, 1J, through its National Street Vending Initiative, has worked in courts, in city councils, and in the streets to help improve vending conditions in cities across the United States, And for years, we have been deeply concerned about New York City’s destructive permit caps, which keep untold numbers of hard-working entrepreneurs out of work or in the shadows. Undoubtedly, you have received input from individuals and groups advocating from various perspectives for or against lifting the caps. My support for lifting the caps is based on empirical research a colleague and I recently completed. Below, I describe the relevant primary findings of that research. I serve as a director of strategic research at IJ, where my team produces social-science research relevant to, among other things, the regulation of occupations. We recently completed two studies specific to the street vendor occupation, In the first, published under the title “Upwardly Mobile: Street Vending and the American Dream,” we surveyed 763 licensed vendors in the 50 largest cities in the United States to discern the demographics of vendors and characteristics of their businesses. This first-of-its kind research also included an in-depth economic case study of New York City’s vending industry.! For many years, street vending—or “peddling”—was populated almost exclusively by lower- income workers, particularly new immigrants, who gravitated to vending due to a lack of other opportunities. Our research indicates that today’s vendors are diverse, hard-working business owners and job creators—just the people cities should welcome with open arms. Specifically, © full-time vendors work, on average, more than 11 hours a day, five and a half days a week, and three out of four part-time vendors hold a second job; * 39% of vendors are employers, averaging 2.3 full-time and 2.7 part-time workers; and © one out of three vending business owners plans to expand. " This study is available at http:/ NGTON aust BELLEVUE CHICAGO MIAMI MINNEAPOLIS T 901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900 Arlington, VA 22203 (703) 682-9320 (703) 682.9821 Fax general org wwwsiLorg Indeed, vending offers an accessible avenue to entrepreneurship, especially for immigrants, minorities and those with less formal education. Our study found: 96% of vendors own their own businesses; 51% of vendors are immigrants, and the average immigrant vendor has been in the United States for 22 years; ‘like the cities they serve, vendors are diverse: 62% are persons of color, including 35% who are Hispanic; and * 28% of vendors did not complete high school, and 63% completed no specialized training before becoming vendors, Even as vending provides opportunities for upward mobility for those who are able to break into the industry despite the city’s caps, it also positively benefits the surrounding community. Our economic analysis of street vending in New York City found that through their economi activity, vending businesses can make sizable contributions to their local economy. In 2012, vendors’ contributions to the New York City economy totaled an estimated 17,960 jobs, $192.3 million in wages, and $292.7 million in value added. And contrary to charges by vending critics. that vendors don’t pay taxes, our results indicate New York City vendors contributed an estimated $71.2 million to local, state, and federal tax coffers. ‘The city’s vending industry has generated this considerable amount of economic activity, and could make even more sizable contributions to the city’s economy if the city lifted the caps. Lifting the caps incrementally would also start to close the black market for permits that currently funnels massive wealth away from the legal, taxable market and from hard-working vendors who simply want to earn an honest living without having to buy a $25,000 permit under the table. Similar to myths about the tax status of street vendors, a pervasive misbelief is that street food sold by vendors is unsanitary. Our second study dispels this myth—food served by street vendors is every bit as safe as that produced by restaurants. In “Street Eats, Safe Bats: How Food Trucks and Carts Stack Up to Restaurants on Sanitation”—later published in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal Food Protection Trends— wwe analyzed more than 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven large cities.” In each of those cities, mobile vendors are covered by the same health codes and inspection regimes as restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses, allowing an apples-to-apples comparison. The report finds: ‘*Inevery city examined—Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.—food trucks and carts did as well as or better than restaurants. © In six out of seven cities—Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami and Washington, D.C.—food trucks and carts averaged fewer sanitation violations than restaurants, and the differences were statistically significant This study is available at http:/! 2 * In Seattle, mobile vendors also averaged fewer violations, but the difference was not statistically significant, meaning mobile vendors and restaurants performed about the same. The results suggest that the notion that street food is unsafe is a myth. They also suggest that the recipe for clean and safe mobile food vending is simple—inspections. Just as sanitation inspections help assure the public that restaurants are clean and safe, they can do the same for mobile food vendors. More burdensome regulations proposed in the name of food safety, such as outright bans, caps on permits, and limits on when and where mobile vendors may work, do not make street food safer—they just make it harder to get. In New York City, street vendors who are able to obtain a permit are subject to an initial inspection, while those operating on the black market or illegally are not. Lifting the caps would subject more street-food vendors to initial inspection, ensuring the safety of their food is consistent with our study’s findings. In closing, lifting the caps on food vending permits in New York City would open the way for greater job creation, entrepreneurship and economic expansion, especially for those on the first rung of the economic ladder. And it can be done while maintaining public health and safety. As one of the world’s great cities, New York City often serves as a model, a standard against which the leaders of cities in other countries compare themselves. In many of those cities, street vending has been and remains a contentious issue, with vendors denied even the most basic of ‘economic opportunities. By lifting the cap on vending, New York City’s leadership will not only benefit its own citizens, it will demonstrate to the world the benefits that acerue from the innovative and forward-looking policy thinking that has made New York City a world leader.