Tag Archives: street vendors

Op-ed: Roosevelt Avenue needs Street Vendor Review Panel


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR JOSE PERALTA 

Walk along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona, and everywhere you go you’ll see small businesses, the vast majority of which are mom-and-pop operations.

These businesses, including the street vending carts and stands, sustain families and breathe life into the community.

From early in the morning until well into the evening, you’ll come across rows of street vendors offering up a smorgasbord of tasty dishes from throughout Latin America, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, books, homemade trinkets and on and on. All this amidst a sea of commuters and shoppers flowing in out of the subway stations and many retail stores along the avenue.

If the scene looks more than a little chaotic, it’s because it is.

The city has a jumble of overlapping and confusing regulations governing the rights and obligations of street vendors. But for all of the rules and regulations, nobody is happy with the system. Not local residents; not brick-and-mortar retailers; and certainly not the street vendors themselves.

Local residents regularly complain to me about sanitation issues and congestion on streets and sidewalks.

Restaurants, diners and fruit stores complain about carts setting up directly in front of their businesses to sell the same kind of food they do.

Other brick-and-mortar businesses complain that the smell and smoke from cooking food in front of their stores, along with the congestion and litter, drives away customers.

And the street vendors complain about petty and excessive city fines and the caps on the number of licenses. Because of the caps on licenses, you have unregulated vendors and even a black market for licenses. I’ve heard of street vendors having to pay as much as $24,000 for an illegal two-year rental of a license.

In order for the street vendors and brick-and-mortar retailers to peacefully and profitably coexist on Roosevelt Avenue and other commercial strips throughout the five boroughs, the city needs to do something, and it needs to start by making sense of the street vending regulations.

That’s why I’m urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconvene the defunct Street Vendor Review Panel and charge it with making sense of the myriad, often overlapping and confusing city regulations governing the rights and obligations of street vendors.

A new Street Vendor Review Panel with a broad, holistic mandate and representatives of street vendors, business owners and community interests is the right entity to study these issues and make appropriate recommendations.

In addition to revising the regulations governing street vendors, I would want the panel to:

• Eliminate the black market for street vendor permits by lifting the current cap on permits and rescinding those of individuals who illegally rent them out.
• Create zoning regulations and incentive structures to reduce sidewalk and street congestion and achieve a more efficient distribution of vendor locations.
• Enact a letter-grade system for mobile food vendors, in accordance with my bill (S. 43-A-2014), to further legitimize the vast majority of street vendors, who sell safe, healthy and delicious food.
• Reduce fines for minor issues and focus enforcement on serious health, safety, traffic and sanitation violations.
• Create and promote designated community spaces where street vendors can congregate to sell food without exacerbating congestion issues.

Inaction on issues surrounding street vendors has allowed enmity and confusion to fester where what’s needed is cooperation, understanding and common purpose.

Small businesses and bustling commercial corridors like Roosevelt Avenue are far too important to the city’s economy for the government to continue to do nothing.

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Queens street vendors, businesses compete for customers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Johann Hamilton

While a bill that would regulate the number of mobile street vendors still sits in the state Senate, businesses remain frustrated as they continue to battle to keep their customers.

For the past few years, businesses said they have seen mobile street vendors growing to a point where pedestrians can find a handful on one block. They provide residents and visitors with an endless amount of handmade goods.

Yet, even as their popularity has grown there are also the questions of whether these street vendors affect larger businesses and if they should receive letter grades from the city’s Department of Health like restaurants.

Food vendors are licensed and inspected by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). According to the DOHMH, it attempts annual on-the-street inspections at each mobile vending unit and also conducts inspections after receiving complaints.

According to the DOHMH, records of inspections are available to the public by calling 3-1-1 and giving the food cart’s permit number or license number.

Mobile food vendors are subject to the Health and Administrative Codes, but do not receive letter grades.

State Senator Jose Peralta introduced legislation in 2011 to grade the food vendors the same way as restaurants in order to ensure the best quality for buyers and help remove vendors that sell goods illegally. The bill still sits in the Senate’s Health Committee.

“Whether buying a meal in a restaurant or from a mobile food vendor, consumers should know that what they’re eating has met certain health and safety standards,” said Peralta. “New York City street food is famous around the world. With a letter-grade system, our street food will also be known for its safety and cleanliness.”

Peralta’s office also continues to hear from local businesses about the growing number of vendors that cause them problems.

To sell or lease other goods and services in a public space, potential vendors need to apply for a General Street Vendor License from the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Potential vendors must have both a food vendor license and permit for their cart. DOHMH issues a maximum total of 5,100 different food unit permits and over the last few years, the number of applications for licenses have increased.

The Courier took to the streets to speak to some vendors and businesses in Bayside and Jackson Heights, two areas in the borough that have a large presence of mobile street vendors.

“I’ve been in this same spot for 16 years because it’s in my neighborhood,” said John Amanatidis, who owns a shish kebab stand on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Bell Boulevard in Bayside. “We do have problems with parking because sometimes people park in this parking lot while they get food here.”

Amanatidis’ stand and a hotdog vendor on Northern Boulevard are being accused of invading private property as their customers use the parking lot owned by CVS Pharmacy and Party City. According to the businesses, this has their potential patrons thinking twice about coming back.

“Business has been very slow because of the street vendor competition,” said Sonia Chawle, owner of Fine Indian Cuisine and Sweets in Jackson Heights. “It’s very different from how it used to be, and I think it’s like that for everyone who has a restaurant around here right now.”

Vendors say they are trying to make a living and do not want to harm the surrounding businesses.

“I put my cart here because it’s where I can make the most business,” said Aman Bachoo, who owns a halal cart in Jackson Heights. “That’s the same reason the restaurants are here too, so I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Even with the conflict between some vendors and businesses, some brick-and-mortar establishments find no problem with the presence of street carts.

According to one employee at Mita Jewelers in Jackson Heights, the jewelry vendors don’t affect business because they sell artificial items compared to the 22 karat gold jewelry available at the store.

“They have their customers and we have ours,” said Alfredo Herrero, manager of Nuevo Tacos Al Suadero. “They’re making competition but not that much.”

Rosendo Medina, a Jackson Heights resident who often eats at a vending cart called Tacos Del Carrito, said the food he gets from the vendors has a unique flavor that keeps bringing him back.

“Sometimes the food here is more delicious,” he said. “Restaurants hire chefs and they don’t know the seasoning. With restaurants you have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for food.”

Food cart patron Steven James echoed the sentiment.

“Even if they [falafel stands] were farther away and more expensive, I would still go out of my way to find them, it has nothing to do with not wanting to give other places my business,” he said.

Additional reporting by Johann Hamilton, Benjamin Fang and Zachary Kraehling

 

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Man Hit, Killed At Queens Road Junction


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Cops save freezing kayaker

Cops yesterday rescued a fisherman whose kayak was sinking in the Atlantic off Jacob Riis Park. The 46-year-old called 9-1-1 at 1:19 p.m. when his boat started taking on water. NYPD Harbor boats began a search, but it was an Aviation Unit Air-Sea Rescue helicopter that located the fisherman as he was clinging to the submerged vessel in the frigid water. The victim was suffering from hypothermia when scuba-diving Officers Jason Gregory and Darren Blum were deployed from the chopper. He was lifted into the aircraft from a basket and rushed to New York Community Hospital. Read More: New York Post

NY lawmaker urges grading system for street food

New York City restaurants get letter grades and now the city food carts may get the same. State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Queens) is introducing legislation to require posted letter health grades for street vendors. Peralta says he wants to make sure whether the public eats in a quality restaurant or eats in a street mobile vending cart, that quality of the food meets certain health and safety standards. Read More: Fox News

Man Sues Boss Over Fat Jokes

A former New York furniture store employee says his manager was so fixated on his weight that she ordered him to establish a “fat club,” recruit members and act as its president. Thomas Hunt, 48, claims his manager at a Raymour & Flanigan furniture store in Queens, Marlene Albarano, relentlessly ribbed Hunt about his extra poundage — even denying him a promotion solely because of his appearance and once ordering him to walk around the building for 30 minutes on his lunch break. Read More: Fox News

Man Hit, Killed At Queens Road Junction

City fire officials say a man was walking near the Clearview-Long Island Expressway interchange in Fresh Meadows just before noon Sunday when he was hit and killed. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said the car stayed on the scene and no criminality was suspected. Read More: NY1

Police Investigate Fatal Shooting Of Queens Teen

Police continue to investigate the shooting death of a teenage boy in front of a home in Queens. Officers were called to Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday. When they arrived, they found Eric Norman, 18, dead after being shot in the head. So far, there are no arrests. Read More: NY1

Boozing JetBlue passenger busted by off-duty NYPD cop
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