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Street vendors near World Trade Center fight expansion of hawker-free zone

A City Council bill would add parts of Barclays Street and small portions of Trinity Place and Greenwich Street to the existing vendor-free zone.

Street vendors, including Walid Naama, and advocates say

Street vendors, including Walid Naama, and advocates say a new City Council proposal to expand the vendor-free zone around the World Trade Center would unfairly displace hard-working New Yorkers. Photo Credit: Alison Fox

Street vendor advocates on Wednesday called a newly proposed City Council plan to expand the vendor-free zone around the World Trade Center prohibitive and said it would displace dozens of vendors.

The new proposed legislation, Intro No. 959, was introduced last week with a committee hearing planned for Thursday morning. It would expand the current zone where street vendors are prohibited to operate by several blocks.

“I can’t move . . . You want to close my spot, this is not fair,” said Walid Naama, 34, who has co-owned a food cart on Barclays Street for four years. “I’m working like 12 hours in the street, I help police officers.”

A spokeswoman for Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who sponsored and introduced the bill, said it’s intended to increase security and ensure adequate room for officials working at and around checkpoints.

“Throughout her career, Council Member Chin has been a strong advocate for the rights of vendors and immigrant workers of all faiths and ethnicities . . .,” Marian Guerra, a spokeswoman for Chin, said in an email. “With WTC 3 coming online and more buildings to follow, this legislation is about enhancing safety for everyone — pedestrians, vendors and workers alike — in and around the World Trade Center site.”

Currently, vendors cannot sell in an area bordered by Liberty to Vesey Street, and Broadway to West Street. The new proposed zone would include parts of Barclays Street, and small portions of Trinity Place and Greenwich Street.

Mohamed Attia, a co-director of the Street Vendor Project, said it is unfair to allow a farmers market to remain in the area but not vendors. The Greenmarket at Oculus Plaza hosts the Greenmarket takes place on Tuesdays from June to October.

“They’re allowing the farmers market to take place while they’re saying the vendors are a threat,” he said. “We don’t really get that.”

Attia said the new proposed bill would displace 22 food carts or tables selling things like souvenirs, or about 30 workers.

Several vendors argued that finding a new spot wasn’t easy, having to take into account several restrictions including how far a vendor is from a door and whether or not another vendor already operates there.

“It’s very hard to find another spot,” said Hamza Chalibi, 32, who has been working at a West Street cart for three years. “Everybody is looking for spots . . . any good spots, you don’t find it.”


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