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Food carts reform bill put on hold, won’t happen under Mark-Viverito

Business improvement districts glad, but vendors fear license black markets will continue to thrive.

A food cart bill that would increase the

A food cart bill that would increase the number of vendor licenses will not be voted on before the end of Melissa Mark-Viverito's tenure on the City Council. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

A controversial bill aimed at boosting the number of permits issued to street vendors in the city was put on hold Monday by outgoing City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Mark-Viverito had championed the move as a way to provide job opportunities to more immigrants, and cut back on the black market use of existing permits. Along with increasing permits, the bill would have created a new vending law enforcement unit and a street vendor advisory board.

Critics, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and business improvement districts across the city, however, said the legislation was being rushed through the council without enough public input.

“The speaker has always sought consensus in the body before bringing legislation before the full council for a vote,” said Robin Levine, a spokeswoman for Mark-Viverito. “While the speaker continues to believe that the city’s antiquated street vending laws are in dire need of modernization, we will not be moving forward with a vote at this time.”

The council was poised to vote on the bill at its meeting on Tuesday, the final session for the year and for several sitting members including Mark-Viverito.

Supporters of the bill said the low number of permits has led to a predatory black market, where some vendors pay tens of thousands of dollars to use a license issued to another person.

The Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project released a statement saying it was disappointed with the decision against holding the vote and put the blame squarely on de Blasio’s shoulders.

“We don’t understand why someone who claims to be a progressive would harm some of the hardest-working and most vulnerable New Yorkers,” the group said in a statement.

Seth Stein, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the bill would have led to “a dramatic increase in food vendor permits without providing the tools or time necessary for effective enforcement” and would have increased competition with mom and pop businesses.

Street Vendor Project organizers, who said they held numerous meetings with City Hall over the legislation, said they asked the council to pull the legislation because there were not enough votes to make it veto-proof.

“We remain committed to working with the incoming council and administration on this comprehensive and balanced reform to our vending system,” the statement read.

The NYC BID Association, which represents business improvement districts around the city, had lobbied hard against the bill, arguing it would further exacerbate a bad situation.

Dan Biederman, of the 34th Street Partnership and Bryant Park Corporation, said the carts are in the wrong locations, too large and don’t follow food health and safety regulations.

“This was a terrible plan to extend a bad program and make it three times as big,” said Biederman.

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