Vendors vented about the city’s long-standing permit cap Tuesday at City Hall rally.
Hundreds of street sellers waved signs demanding “More Permits Now.”
The city capped the number of permits its issues to vendors — who hawk food, trinkets, artwork and more — at 5,000 in 1981.
The clamp down was part of an effort to clean up city streets — but City Hall no longer needs to keep such a tight rein on vendors, advocates said.
According to the Street Vendor Project, some 15,000 vendors operate illegally — or pay up to $25,000 to rent a permit that would only cost $300 through legal channels.
Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project, said his organization has called on City Hall to lift the cap for over two years.
“We have been waiting for the right to simply work legally,” he said. “All they want is to be able to sell food. They’re not asking for government hand-outs; they just want a right to work.”
Basinski said many street vendors support large families.
Kama Dorjee, 40, has been selling pictures and postcards in SoHo for the past eight years. He wore a yellow “Vendor Power” shirt and carried a sign reading “NYPD Harassment Tickets for Vending.”
“Sometimes I get three tickets in one day,” he said. “I’m tired of always being given a problem for my business. I’m a family man.”
Dorjee lives in Woodside with his wife and five children, who are between age 7 and 21.
Leroy Rose, 53, said he has a permit for selling toys in downtown Brooklyn and that he attended the march in solidarity with his fellow vendors who are unlicensed.
“Street vendors are demanding respect,” he said. “We come with concern and we come with no shame. We come to let you know that it’s not a crime to feed our families.”
Doris Yao, 59, has never been able to get her own permit so she has been leasing several through the black market.
But such permits are very expensive, she complained, and she recently lost permits for two of the three Chinese food trucks she operates in Manhattan.
“Now I just have one permit … I feel so hurting,” said Yao, who emigrated from Taiwan 33 years ago and has been working as a food vendor for five years.
“Mayor, do us a big favor,” she continued. “We are street vendors and we don’t go on welfare; we just want to work.”
Not everyone is sold on the idea of more permits, however.
Several business, hospitality and community groups oppose the move — arguing that the city’s Health Department can barely keep up with current demand for inspections.
The vendors’ carts also contribute to traffic congestion and unclean streets, the groups said.
Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership & Bryant Park Management Corp, said lifting the cap would likely on exacerbate the black market demand — because the city’s $300 fee is “absurdly” low.
He also complained that many food carts are unsightly and unsanitary.
“Under present conditions, violations of food safety guidelines are rampant, and have been well-documented in news media reports. On that basis alone, city officials should not entertain, or bow to any pressure to lift the cap,” said Biederman.
The New York City Hospitality Alliance said it applauds and supports entrepreneurship — but doesn’t back lifting the cap.
“It makes no sense to increase the number of mobile food vendors when the city already can’t properly enforce the laws against the existing number of vendors,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the alliance.
Another coalition of community groups and neighborhood alliances said the existing vendors already clogged streets.
“Our neighborhoods are powerless to deal with the litter, smoke, odors, crowding of the pedestrian way and illegal parking caused by street vendor activity, which disrupts residents and businesses,” the group said.
They would like City Hall to create a “vendor enforcement squad” to police the existing street sellers, the group said.