Bill could lift cap on street food vendor permits

Posted: Updated:

A City Council bill may soon lift the cap on available permits for street food vendors, allowing thousands more to operate legally. 

Food vendors have been a part of New York City since the city was founded, but many operate illegally with the permit cap set in 1983 at just 2,900 full-time street food permits citywide.

Habibi Amar says his 1991 application was never answered, and he has been operating without a permit ever since. 

“I have to live. I have to pay my rent. I have to eat something,” he says. 

City officials say they are worried about the expensive and dangerous permit black market, and note that the new bill would gradually add 4,000 street food vendor permits over the next 10 years. It would also create a street vendor enforcement office and advisory board. 

Michael Brady, from the Third Avenue Business Improvement District, says due diligence must be done, adding that extra trash and pedestrian safety are concerns.

“You can barely move near the subway entrances. Why? Because those are prime vending spots, they're also illegal vending spots and they add to overall sidewalk congestion,” he says. 

There are also many empty storefronts in the area with some brick and mortar business owners telling News 12 that they have to pay thousands of dollars of rising rent costs every month while street vendors don't.

One man who has had an electronics repair shop in the area for more than 20 years says he is concerned

“I want to have everybody in New York be able to sell whatever they want to sell, but at what point? There's gotta be a limit, it shouldn't be a free-for-all,” he says. 

Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project says there's enough business to go around.

“There's really no unfair competition here, vendors are small businesses, there are stores that are small businesses, there are customers for everyone,” they say. 

Some in the area added that at least vendors are selling fruits and vegetables.

“It's better than being out here selling drugs and that's an occupation,” said one community member. 

There is also currently a bill in the state Senate that would not only add street food vendor permits, but also more licenses for people selling other items like jewelry and household goods. 

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