Street vendors argue against permits cap, cite research on ‘synergistic’ bond with storefronts

Street vendors tend to have good relations with the management of nearby stores, according to a report released by a group advocating on behalf of the sector. 
Street vendors tend to have good relations with the management of nearby stores, according to a report released by a group advocating on behalf of the sector.  Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Street vendors are contending with faulty stereotypes about their livelihood hindering their brick-and-mortar counterparts across the city, according to a new report. 

Advocates for those entrepreneurs, who hawk everything from hot dogs to gloves, said Thursday that City Hall should not allow those misconceptions to limit street vendors’ growth.

They reiterated their support for legislation that would lift a cap on street vendor licenses and cheered State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who announced the MTA has agreed to a pilot program that will offer such purveyors empty retail spaces in the subway system, such as vacant newsstands.

The report, compiled by The Street Vendor Project, tracked the relationship between street vendors and traditional stores in parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan and noted that their operators often work to avoid stepping on one another’s toes, according to Kathryn "Kurt" Wheeler, the lead researcher for the report. 

"Vendors avoid setting up near stores that sell similar items, and often there are synergistic relationships that result from watching over each other’s merchandise and sharing customers,” Wheeler said in a statement. 

Laura Matute said she has cultivated an amicable relationship with the managers of Seba Seba Bakery while selling ice cream near it, on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard in Queens. Matute said she often buys coffee from the bakery and uses its restroom.

"They watch out for me and I watch out for them," Matute said in a statement.

The report said some vendors are hassled by police and hit with tickets for supposed spatial violations when they appear to be setting up an appropriate distance from stores and congested areas.

The Street Vendors Project, a nonprofit group supporting the sector, urged the city to pass a bill lifting the cap on street vendor permits. The group also called for the creation of a new unit to enforce related rules and an industry advisory board, with representatives from traditional shops and street businesses.

Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, agreed that the city should reform its vendor rules, but said the report minimized issues between traditional businesses and vendors.

"We don’t question the fact that some street food vendors and restaurateurs have good relationships, but to imply that conflicts don’t exist, isn’t the street level reality," Rigie said in a statement. 

Ramos supported the report’s suggestions and announced the MTA and her office would be working to open up unused news and snack stations in her district to vendors.

"We know here in Queens that vendors are our neighbors and they are part of the fabric of our small business community," Ramos said in a statement.