North Star Fund made a Rapid Response grant of $5,000 to the Street Vendor Project for training and mobilization in preparation for a March hearing of a bill that would increase the number of vending permits in New York City.
What is the Street Vendor Project?
There are as many as 20,000 street vendors in New York City—mostly immigrants and people of color who run small businesses. In recent years, vendors have become a target for law enforcement’s “broken windows” policing practices. Vendors are subject to costly fines for “quality of life” crimes, including vending without a license and vending too close to a crosswalk.
That’s where the Street Vendor Project (SVP) comes in. With nearly nearly 2,000 vendor members, SVP is fueling the vendors’ movement for permanent change. They reach vendors in the streets and storage garages and teach them about their legal rights and responsibilities, in addition to connecting them to the tools they need to grow their businesses.
SVP and their members have been organizing and campaigning to increase the number of food vending permits in NYC since 2014. The cap of 3,000 vending permits—not raised since the 1980s—is the key factor that requires most vendors to operate in the shadows, face police harassment and fines, and fall into legal problems due to unaffordable tickets. It has also created an illicit market for permits, with illegal leases costing as much as $25,000 per year. This current system has a strong negative impact on women and immigrant vendors, who have the least access to the permit market.
In 2018, SVP’s #LiftTheCaps campaign gained momentum, and they almost passed a bill that would have raised the number of permits for street vendors. Now in early 2019, vendors have another opportunity to pass impactful legislation: City Council members Margaret S. Chin and Carlos Menchaca introduced Intro 1116, which is subject to a hearing this March. They are hopeful that the bill will pass this time, especially after gaining 25 co-sponsors and after a similar bill passed in Los Angeles. This is an important opportunity for SVP and its members to make its voice heard and increase protections for vendors.
What can you do?
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