Mayor Eric Adams defended police for cuffing and allegedly strip-searching a Brooklyn subway vendor, claiming the rule-breaking would lead to more serious violations in the underground transit system.
“We have to follow rules,” Mayor Adams said at an unrelated press conference outside City Hall Monday, May 9.
“Next day it’s propane tanks being on the subway system, next day it’s barbecuing on the subway system. You just can’t do that,” Hizzoner added to reporters.
Cops were caught on camera arresting longtime local fruit and churros vendor Maria Falcon in front of her child at the Broadway Junction subway station on April 29.
Falcon told amNewYork Metro on Sunday she felt “terrorized,” because officers made her take off some of her clothes to be strip-searched and kept her for two hours at the transit police station.
Horrific treatment of Maria, a mother, immigrant entrepreneur & her *daughter* who filmed
Earlier this week, Maria was arrested for selling mangoes & kiwis to customers she's served for 10+ yrs
Shame on our city for choosing cruelty, instead of supporting hardworking mothers pic.twitter.com/sjonO5FMjM
— Street Vendor Project (@VendorPower) May 7, 2022
Falcon got a citation for unauthorized commercial activity and Adams doubled down on enforcing the low-level offense.
Adams’s response Monday echoed statements from February, when he announced a crackdown on rule-breakers in transit, saying there would be, among other things, “no more barbecues on the subway system.”
It is unclear if there was ever a case of someone firing up a grill or a propane tank in the transit system, and the MTA press office did not provide any examples by press time.
In one instant almost a decade ago on the Fourth of July in 2013, a rider brought a smoker grill onto a train, but the straphanger seemed to just be transporting the device on a “blissfully empty” train rather than cooking up a storm on the go, reported Gothamist at the time.
Falcon said that during her detainment, officers made her take off her sweater, pants, and shoes, claiming they were searching her for weapons and drugs.
Adams, a former transit cop, supported the Boys in Blue, but noted that the NYPD would “evaluate” that specific arrest.
“Those officers encountered, they said, ‘You can’t do this here,’ there was real engagement, and the woman decided to do something differently. We can’t have anything and everything goes in our city,” Adams said.
“We’re evaluating to see exactly what happened and do proper training,” he added.
Falcon had said she was no longer vending at the time of the arrest, but was sitting with her laundry cart in front of her and next to her daughter and fellow vendor Elsa, who was arrested at the same station for selling churros in 2019.
Adams also questioned whether it was safe to eat the food sold by vendors like Falcon.
“There’s a reason we have Department of Health standards,” the mayor said. “If people are just selling food without any form of assurance of the quality of their food, someone could get ill from that and so that’s why there are rules in the subway system.”
Falcon has a mobile food vendor license from the city and passed a DOH food safety course, according to the Street Vendor Project, an advocacy group that first posted the video of her arrest on Twitter over the weekend.
She has not been able to get a permit to hawk goods from her cart, however, because those have been capped for decades.
“We agree with Mayor Adams – street vendors including Maria want to follow the rules just like any other small business,” said Street Vendor Project Director Mohamed Attia in a statement.
“We hope to work with Mayor Adams to modernize the vending industry so that hardworking small business owners like Maria can formalize her business, ensuring that all vendors can obtain the right permitting from the city by eliminating the arbitrary cap on permits, and investing in our city’s smallest businesses,” Attia added.
Before he became mayor, Adams actually supported relaxing the permit limit and pushed a City Council law back when he was still Brooklyn borough president in 2020.
“Street vendors represent the diverse fabric of our city,” wrote then-Borough President Adams on Facebook. “I stand with Street Vendor Project and call for the New York City Council to pass Intro 1116-A to give these workers an opportunity to be a part of the economy while also rationalizing our enforcement strategy. There’s room for coexistence.”
State Senator Jessica Ramos (D–Queens), who authored a bill to further relax the rules around street vending, condemned the mayor’s statements as a “regression” and said officials should instead divert resources toward legalizing the vendors.
“We make vending safer by granting permits, not arresting vendors. This needs a regulatory fix, not a police response,” she wrote on Twitter. “Understanding the details of this city works is a necessary part of knowing how to run it.
The concern for consumer safety is precisely what S1175B solves for! We make vending safer by granting permits, not arresting vendors. This needs a regulatory fix, not a police response. Understanding the details of this city works is a necessary part of knowing how to run it.
— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) May 9, 2022