New York City street vendors have just scored a major victory: The City Council finally passed long-overdue legislation, lifting the restrictive and outdated permit cap that has forced thousands of vendors to operate without a proper license.
Called Intro 1116-B, the legislation is the first major reform for the sector since a 1983 law limited the number of vending licenses to less than 3,000, pushing thousands of other applicants into a long waiting list.
The new bill will create 4,000 new permits for street vendors in the city over the next decade, and will also create a separate law enforcement agency to oversee the street vending community — a move welcomed by advocates who have long denounced excessive fines and over-policing.
“Having this permit will change my life in a very important way because it means that after 20 years of going out to sell tamales every day and serving my community, my labor will finally be legalized,” said street vendor Sonia Garcia Perez, who put her name on a permit waiting list over 10 years ago.
With diminished foot traffic and tourism as a result of the pandemic, the legislation arrives at a perilous moment for the city’s estimated 20,000 vendors, many of whom are immigrants.
While the changes won’t provide immediate relief from the COVID-19 crisis, the bill is hoped to alleviate challenges vendors have faced over the past decades — including being ruled out from federal aid because they don’t have a proper license.
“This legislation will bring hope and opportunity to hardworking New Yorkers who are immigrants, who have been historically left out of a lot of the government’s support,” said Margaret Chin, a Manhattan Democrat who championed the bill.