Street Vendor Project Supports Black Market Crackdown

Since the city arrested those guys involved in the vendor permit black market, and vowed to crack down on the vendors using illegally obtained permits, it’s no surprise that the Street Vendor Project issued this statement yesterday supporting the actions, while calling for the city to increase the number of permits offered ever year. (There is a bill being debated by the City Council now.)

“More than 9,000 New Yorkers are eager to be sidewalk chefs, but there are no food-vending permits available – so instead they’re languishing on a waiting list, hoping to secure one of about a dozen permits that free up every year.

The city only allows 3100 pushcart peddlers to sell curbside cuisine. By setting the cap far below vendor supply and public demand, the city unintentionally creates a thriving and exploitive black market, where aspiring vendors “rent” permits from illegal middlemen for more than $8,000. Other vendors are driven underground, where they’re unlicensed and unregulated.”

“The victims of the underground market are mostly new immigrants, with families to feed and rent to pay- and little English to fall back on. Desperate for the American dream, they pay exorbitant fees for access to the city’s sidewalks. It doesn’t make sense.

The city has taken an important first step by cracking down on black market profiteers. As these scammers are caught, we urge the city to re-assign the permits to working vendors.

To fully eradicate the illegal black market, the New York City Council should pass Intro 324, legislation that would raise the caps to realistic levels to help bring vendors out of the shadows and into the legal mainstream.”  -Statement on behalf of Ali Issa, Street Vendor Project

And I’ll go a step further (because I know the SVP can’t.)  Not only should the city crack down on the black market, and reassign the permits to working vendors as quickly as possible, but any vendor that is found to be using an illegally purchased permit should be given the opportunity to prove that their cart is up to code, and otherwise operating legally. If it is, they should be allowed to pay the city to transfer that permit legally to their name.

If a vendor’s only crime was being forced into buying an illegal permit by a poorly designed system that doesn’t properly account for demand, they should be given the opportunity to keep that permit in a legal way provided they can prove that they have been operating their business in an otherwise legal way for an extended period of time. There are a lot of good vendors, operating carts that are fully up to code, who are probably using illegally obtained permits. We should punish those who were taking advantage of these vendors, not the vendors themselves. To put it in a different perspective… punish the scalpers, not the fans trying to buy tickets to the sold out show.


  • Does anyone else think it’s funny that the NYC vending scene has turned into a Miley Cyrus concert?

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    While I can understand why you feel that only the folks selling the illegal permits should be penalized, that’s a bit of a short-sighted response and will never work. If vendors aren’t penalized for purchasing an illegal permit, there will always continue to be a market for them. Those who sell illegal permits will take the risk as the profits can outweigh the drawbacks. By penalizing people on both sides will probably do a lot more to nip this problem in the bud than if you just arrest the sellers.

  • You cant have it both ways Zach, if they received there permits illegally they should be stripped of there license and forced to apply like everyone else otherwise your rewarding them for breaking the law.

  • Yeah Zach! Don’t stop there! Let’s allow illegal immigrants to obtain the rights and benefits of citizens, redistribute wealth through taxation, nationalize health care and release all the terrorists on US soil! Whoo Hoooo!

  • @soupdumpling,@D
    Both of you raise really great points. The willing buyers provide the black marketeers an incentive to continue selling. Also a light slap on the hand is merely a minor disincentive for vendors to go to the black market for a permit. I think the problem we see is that people don’t want hard working folks to be punished just because there’s only one avenue to obtain a permit.

    Obviously the system is broken… I think most of us can accept a transfer of the permit ownership provided that we can severely fine those ppl who start the black market. And if we do that and also give people a chance to vend, then we should be ok.

  • I’m sympathetic to Zach’s view.

    If the city isn’t going to substantially increase the number of permits, amnesty for the current “renters” that are up to code is better than nothing.

    If the city does start adding more permits, there’s less reason to offer amnesty since they should be able to just get one legally on their own.

  • here’s an idea – why don’t they fucking allow more permits?

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