Vending provides opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs while giving the public more affordable, tasty options. Many New Yorkers likely have a favorite halal food cart, preferred hot dog stand or go-to empanada spot.
Like their brick-and-mortar restaurant counterparts, street vendors have suffered immensely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike many establishments, they have not received any help from the federal, state or city government.
That’s why the timing was right for the City Council to finally pass legislation lifting the cap on the number of street vending permits in New York City.
Since 1983, only 3,000 permits have been allowed in the Big Apple. With so many people looking for a chance to break into the industry, a robust underground market has formed, causing some desperate people to pay as much as $30,000 to rent a permit.
The street vendors bill not only lifts the cap, but releases 400 more food vending permits per year over the next decade. By 2032, the city will apply a regulation stating that street vendors must remain present at their cart. Lawmakers believe this rule will help minimize the practice of renting permits.
As part of the legislation, the city will form a unit to enforce street vending laws. An advisory board made up of street vendor representatives, small business advocates, city agencies and property owners will oversee the permit rollout process and make recommendations to the next mayor and City Council.
If Mayor Bill de Blasio signs the bill, which seems likely, the city will finally tackle the persistent problems of not just the underground permit market, but the lack of enforcement from city agencies.
Thirteen members of the City Council voted against the bill, noting opposition from the small business community about their own struggles during the economic downturn. While the plight of street vendors deserved immediate action, which they finally received, brick-and-mortar businesses need government relief too.
Lawmakers should act quickly to ensure all businesses that are hurting get the help they need.