‘We want him to get serious’: NYC street vendors demand action, not talk, from mayor at City Hall rally for protection

Street vendors rally for greater NYC protection
Street vendors rally outside Governor Kathy Hochul’s Manhattan office on March 14.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Street vendors in New York are tired of waiting upon City Hall for help.

So they gathered on the steps of the city legislature Thursday along with advocates to call upon the Adams administration to ensure their right to work with dignity and stability.

The rally attendees marched on Sept. 29 to demand that Mayor Eric Adams and other city leaders end policies they believe are unjust enforcements of their businesses, and instead ask that their businesses be recognized and formalized as well as invested in.

“I am here with my neighbors to call on the mayor to finally get serious,” said Queens state Senator Jessica Ramos at the rally. “Four hundred and four [street vending] permits were expected to be doled out this year and we are yet to see any action, any [update] about anything from this mayor. So we want him to get serious. Don’t just be a mayor for big business, look at our smallest entrepreneurs fighting to put food on the table for their families. They are not criminals, they are hard-working people looking for dignity and looking for the legalization of their businesses.”

NYC street vendors are among the city’s smallest yet most prolific industries, predominantly run by majority immigrants, people of color, military veterans and women. 

Approximately 20,000 people in the city are employed as street vendors and thousands of NYC businesses are forced to operate illicitly because they are blocked from being able to acquire the necessary business permitting to legitimize their business.

“Today we are demanding that the council consider legislation to be introduced really really soon,” said one vendor owner at the rally. “We are looking for the Council to do the right thing now. Our demands are full legalization of our industry including every vendor in the city. That’s not so much to ask for.”

Following this rally, a Department of Consumer and Worker Protection spokesperson told amNewYork Metro that while street vendors are a crucial part of the city, they must still follow the laws and restrictions in place.

“Street vendors are a vital part of New York City’s economic landscape; however, everyone must follow the City’s rules and laws,” the spokesperson said Thursday. “Vending is a complicated issue that impacts us all—from the vendors themselves to local businesses to residents and visitors. DCWP inspectors are committed to an education-first approach to vending enforcement, which includes the opportunity to comply before issuing violations. Unlicensed vending and vendors who flout the rules put New Yorkers at risk of everything from foodborne illness to traffic crashes.”