Food fight: Stringer critiques Yang over street vendor policy

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Catlina Cruz and Scott Stringer enjoy tamales from a street vendor.
Photo by Dean Moses

New York City Comptroller and Mayoral candidate Scott Stringer rallied Monday alongside fellow elected officials after Andrew Yang’s criticism of unlicensed vendors.

Stringer and others criticized Yang over his April 11 tweet in which he claimed that the city wasn’t doing enough to enforce street vending rules and called for assistance to be allocated to business owners “who are paying rent and trying to survive.”  

Yang’s comment drew harsh criticism from prospective voters and allowed rival candidate for the city’s top office, Stringer, to seize an opportunity to take one of his biggest contenders down a peg and stand up for work he considers to be embedded in New York City’s culture.

Stringer literally exhibited his contrasting stance on street vendors by standing alongside Assembly Member Catalina Cruz and indulging in some street cuisine on 103 Street-Corona Plaza, Queens on Monday morning. The Comptroller also bought and consumed a tamale from a nearby vendor, enjoying it so much he yearned for seconds.

Prior to showcasing his appetite to keep street vendors in business, Stringer joined Cruz and state Senator Jessica Ramos to call out Yang for his comments condemning those who many feel are hard-working individuals attempting to provide for their families.

Stringer lent his support for Street Vendors. Photo by Dean Moses

“Street vendors are a part of the fabric of our city,” Stringer began mere feet away from a host of tamale, churors, and halal merchants. “There are as many as 20,000 street vendors in New York City. Annually street vendors contribute $293 million to the city’s economy and pay over $70 million in taxes. More importantly these are the tens of thousands of hard-working New Yorkers who are trying to make ends meet for themselves and their families. They believe in this city and they want what’s best of their kids. I stand with the hard-working immigrant communities that make our city run because that’s what loving New York really means. It means seeing street vendors as the backbone of our city, not a nuisance to be swept away, not to be called collateral damage because this is the heart of New York and I’m going to fight like hell for them.”

Ramos echoed these statements, stating that she was disgusted with Andrew Yang’s tweet. The senator claimed Yang didn’t understand the people of the city or what she calls the “New York hustle,” warning him to “not mess with my neighbors.” 

Ramos believes the men and women who line the streets with food carts are vital to the economy and provide an alternative for those who can not afford a hefty restaurant bill.

“I cannot begin to tell you how hurt, how offended I was to read that someone who wants to be our mayor is thinking throwing honest workers, innocents, people who pay taxes, people who keep our street vibrant in jail,” Ramos said. “You can’t be mayor of the City of New York if you don’t know how the city works.”

State Senator Jessica Ramos was disgusted by Andrew Yang’s tweet. Photo by Dean Moses

This topic also hit home with Cruz, who is a daughter of a street vendor.  She reminded Yang that street vendors are parents providing for a better future for their children, and she herself is proof of that. 

“You know what happens when you give a family like that a chance? One day they become a legislator,” Cruz said proudly. 

“What happens when you give a family [a chance] for survival is they thrive. That’s all we are looking for. We are looking for a mayor that understands that you don’t have to choose between brick and mortar and the street vendors that there is a universe  where we can fight for both of them to fight to survive and thrive,” Cruz added.

Yang attempted to do damage control by “clarifying” his social media message with a series of follow-up tweets. However, the anger from many New Yorkers has not even begun to quell.       

“We cannot have a leader who tweets first and thinks second and that words have policy consequences,” Stringer said, promising to continue to fight and support street vendors if  elected mayor. 

amNewYork Metro reached out to the Yang campaign for comment, and is awaiting a response.

Assembly member Catlina Cruz is furious, especially as a daughter of a street vendor. Photo by Dean Moses