We suggested earlier today that the Metropolitan Museum of Art complained to the cops about too many vendors out front, and the cops responded with a ticket blitz. But Sean Basinski of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center thinks today’s bust was just another example of historically poor relations among street carts, city government, and stationary businesses. Is the Pushcart War on again? Read Basinski’s scathing statement, below.
We’re disappointed that today the New York City Police Department levied thousands of dollars in fines against disabled war veterans for standing more than eighteen inches from the curb while trying to earn a living by selling their wares on the street. We’re disappointed, but we aren’t surprised.
Throughout New York City’s history, merchants and other business interests have joined forces with city officials concerned with congestion, modernization, and “quality of life” to bar vendors from streets and regulate them excessively. Because of this, vendors are subjected to incessant and inhumane ticket blitzes, incurring more than 45,000 tickets each year for minor infractions that have nothing to do with health or safety. Confusing and often arbitrary rules, like parking too far from the curb, or too close to a storefront, can carry a crippling $1,000 fine and make it nearly impossible to do business.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Street vending offers a viable economic pathway out of poverty for hardworking, ambitious entrepreneurs such as disabled veterans, recent immigrants, and the newly unemployed. Rather than stifle those opportunities, the city should embrace them and open our sidewalks to make vending laws work better for vendors, their customers, and everyone else.
Earlier: NYPD Cites Met Vendors