Street vendors hold sleep-out protest at Governor Hochul’s Midtown office

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN (WABC) — Dozens of street vendors in New York City were holding a 24-hour sleep-out protest in front of Governor Kathy Hochul’s office in Midtown Manhattan on Monday.

They’re calling on the governor to support the formalization and decriminalization of street vending in the state budget.

The street vendors say they have been trapped in an unjust system for decades and did essential work during the pandemic.

They say they are being excluded from the formalized economy.

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Vendors are subject to exorbitant fines at a rate even higher than pre-pandemic levels, with continued enforcement conducted by NYPD.

Maria Lopez said about a decade ago in the Bronx, she was detained and issued a summons for selling frozen treats without a permit. And to this day, she says she lives in fear.

“What hurt most or what was the most disturbing was that that day, my daughter was with me, my 4-year-old daughter was with me, and that’s the kind of experience you never forget,” Lopez said. “To this day, 11 years later she still remembers, and she asks me to stop working as a street vendor.”

There is a cap on vendor licenses in New York City. Those protesting say it remains virtually impossible to become a legal street vendor in the city.

Protesters say the licenses on the black market can go for as much as $25,000.

Vending without a permit can cost them a $1,000 fine, which can be an entire week’s worth of sales.

“A full reform of a system that has been in place for decades that treats our vendors as criminals. New York City placed caps on the number of permits and licenses back in the ’70s and ’80s,” said Mohamed Attia with Street Vendor Project. “Until today in 2022, street vendors are still dealing with the same system, a system that treats them as criminals, a system that puts them in jail.”

So they are calling on the governor to sign a bill into law. It’s sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, and would if passed:

1. Remove NYPD enforcement from street vending and criminal penalties for street vending offenses, ensures oversight conducted solely by a civilian agency
2. Formalize the street vending industry, creating a pathway to entrepreneurship by removing the currently insurmountable barrier to entry to the industry. Vendors who wish to do business in accordance with the law -including paying taxes, following citing rules and regulations -will be able to obtain permits to operate their business.
3. Allow for past criminal convictions for street vending to be vacated to ensure no federal immigration consequences

A spokesperson for Hochul released the following statement:

“Governor Hochul’s executive budget includes bold initiatives to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our future, and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers.”

Tuesday, after the sleep-out, the vendors kick off a march up to Albany.

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