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Midtown food cart operators say 34th Street Partnership is using planters, benches to force them out

These food carts on Broadway between 31st and

These food carts on Broadway between 31st and 32nd streets are among those claiming the 34th Street Business Improvement District is using beautification as an excuse to force them out. Photo Credit: Ivan Pereira

These food carts won't be pushed around.

An advocacy group contends that a midtown business improvement district is hurting the bottom line of many food cart owners by encroaching on limited sidewalk space with plants and signage.

Street Vendor Project called out the 34th Street Partnership Monday for displacing cart owners outside a development on Broadway and 31st Street. Since construction began on the “Nomad Tower,” cart owners say they've seen an increase in large street plantings, construction fences, and bike racks, forcing them to relocate.

Yahay Rahimi, who has operated a bagel-and coffee-cart nearby for a decade, said he was forced to move south half of a block after the partnership put the planting on his spot in front of the construction site, and he's lost half of his business.

"I've been here for 10 years. I know I'm not a big business, but I still need my customers," he said.

Street Vendor Project legal director Matt Shapiro said the bid has not met or even considered the concerns of the street cart vendors when it comes to these sidewalk projects.

"Plantings, bike racks … these are all important things, but vendors should be in those conversations as well," he said. 

In a statement, the 34th Street Partnership said Street Vendor Project "continues to conflate and confuse the myriad of issues surrounding street vending regulations and is doing so because of stalled and unpopular legislation in the City Council that would dramatically increase [the] number of food carts on the city's streets." 

Representatives for the city's Department of Transporation did not provide an immediate comment. 

Street Vendor Project director Mohamed Attia said the issue isn't just limited to Midtown. The group has seen building owners and bids install bike racks and planters where food carts typically operate in the Financial District and Upper West Side.

"We think the city should stand up and speak for these people," Attia said. 

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