Ask the SVP

Sean Basinski from the Street Vendor Project is taking questions on City Room, and it’s pretty clear that NYT readers aren’t quite the street food fans we are (i.e. “What are the safety regulations of vendors? Often they appear to urinate without washing their hands – some into their own carts? Is that the etiology of the “dirty water hot dog”?”)


  • OMG all of you need to read the comments on that link. Most are hateful rants against vendors and then there’s this group called “Robert Lederman, President of ARTIST”
    That has an obvious vendetta against Sean and is employing his workers to post in the comments. WTF?

  • yeah , I saw that, pretty crazy stuff on there.

  • Well, hopefully SVP will explain the vendetta :)

  • Adam, that would be an apt question to ask.

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    Lederman is a real Renaissance man. When he’s not organizing comment-bombing episodes, he’s also an expert in West Nile and pesticides:

    Oh, and he’ll tell you whats what, boy, with the Human Genome:

    I don’t even know how to categorize this one,but it name-checks Hitler, The Vatican, Guiliani, Clinton, Bush and Jesus:

    GW Bush, Jesus and the Manhattan Institute

    From my perspective, he’s just another nutjob a-hole with a platform who can’t seem to shut up. (I’m looking at you, Zach!)

    Oh, he also thinks the really disgusting and disruptive Ground Zero trinket vendors are A-OK!

  • this guy is another troll, there are no explanations possible for such people. They troll b/c they are trolls and this is what trolls do…

  • Wow, those are the most pathetic questions or comments I have read in a while.

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    I actually wondered how all these new trucks were getting permits when there are so few and the list is closed???

  • I think we need to help Sean (SVP) out here and post some legit questions he can answer.

  • @mamacita – GREAT suggestion!

  • Mamacita, i’m not sure that is necessary. After all, someone on the NY Times asked “who should a citizen complain to when vendors do not display a license?” Once we get the answer, I can resume my citizen patrol duties.

  • I added a question. After all, the topic is “Why is street food so trendy right now? Why do vendors crowd together on certain streets, while leaving other barren? And where do they go with those pushcarts at night?” I’d actually be interested in knowing the answers to these questions!

    But all I am reading so far on the NYTimes site are completely bogus cr4p wrapped up in sh1t posing as legitimate questions/concerns.

    Mama, you are on deck …

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    Lots of people seem to be upset the street vendors take up sidewalk space, which is scant in many areas. Maybe instead of attacking the vendors, they should be asking why cars get most street space when the majority of New Yorkers take public transportation.

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    The two questions that need to be answered are:

    1) What was the nomination process that allowed the Dump truck to be a finalist?

    2) Are they limiting the effort to questions or will they’re actually be answers at some point?

    Zach, disassociate yourself before it blows up even more in your face. You don’t need to be linked to this organization, you’re better than that (or will you have a Vendy-nominated cart in contention next year too?)

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    DECEPTION ALERT: The Street Vendor Project

    The available evidence suggests that the Street Vendor Project (SVP)
    is a corporate sponsored, government-funded, front group
    for the NY City Council and the BIDs [Business Improvement Districts],
    both of which promote it at every opportunity. It is not a legitimate
    vendor advocacy group.

    Judge these 9 exhibits for yourself.

    Exhibit #1.
    The SVP is funded by the NY City Council

    The main funding for the Urban Justice Center, the umbrella
    group which sponsors the Street Vendor Project (SVP), is the NY City Council,
    as stated in the Urban Justice Centers 2008 Annual Report. SEE:

    According to their annual report, the City Council donated more
    than $300,000 to them in 2008. The exact figure is not revealed.

    Previous annual reports note that other top contributors
    have been the US Department of Justice as well as
    many of the wealthiest banks and law firms in NYC.
    These corporations, law firms and Wall Street investment funds are
    closely associated with the real estate industry,
    the traditional enemy of NYC vendors. They are also
    the real powers behind, and in many instances the founders of,
    each BID (Business Improvement District).

    Exhibit #2
    The NY City Council and the BIDs that promote the SVP
    have persecuted street artists and vendors for decades.

    They write all the laws that the NYPD enforces against street artists,
    vets, food vendors, general merchandise vendors and illegal vendors.
    As of March 2009 there were more than 23 newly proposed anti street artist
    and anti vending laws pending before the NY City Council, virtually
    all of them written by the BIDs.

    The SVP has publicly supported, and in some cases helped write,
    proposed vending bills sponsored by some of the most anti vendor
    City Councilmembers, bills which if passed would have destroyed vending.

    It is therefore legitimate to question why the City Council is funding
    and promoting a so-called vendor advocacy group at the same time
    they are actively trying to destroy vending.

    Exhibit #3
    It is a standard political tool of corporations and business groups to fund
    their own opposition as a means of exerting control.

    A good idea of why the BIDs and the anti vendor NY City Council
    would select, fund and promote one vendor activist
    group while completely ignoring all other vendor advocacy
    groups in the city can be found by reading this book:

    “Managing Activism: A Guide to Dealing with Activists and Pressure Groups”
    An excellent review of it is at this address:
    The book is a guide written for corporations by a public
    relations expert on how to defeat, compromise
    and coopt activist groups.

    Dictionary definition of Coopt:
    “To neutralize or win over through assimilation into an established
    group or culture: co-opt rebels by giving them positions of

    Making an activist group dependant on your funding
    is the most basic technique. Oil companies, as just one example, routinely fund,
    and in some instances, run, anti pollution environmental groups as a
    way of controlling dissent.

    Exhibit #4
    Most NY City Councilmembers are controlled by their local BID

    Each BID has at least one City Council member on it’s board
    of directors. In some instances the Councilmember founded the BID
    they sit on the board of. Political contributions from the various BID
    member businesses are the single largest source of funding for all of the
    City Council campaigns. Members of the legislative staffs
    of many City Councilmembers work as lobbyists for the BIDs
    after leaving public service.

    If you read the annual reports of the BIDs you will find that
    eliminating vendors is their #1 priority and in most BIDs it
    was the original purpose for which they were created. That’s why
    every City Councilmember is so preoccupied with regulating and
    eliminating NYC vendors.

    It is not a coincidence that these same anti vendor councilmembers, are
    out and out supporters of the SVP.

    In other words, the evidence suggests that the Street Vendor Project (SVP)
    functions as a front group for the NY City Council and the BIDs,
    both of which promote it at every opportunity. This “promotion”
    activity includes
    numerous puff pieces on the SVP that appear regularly in the most
    anti vendor, anti street artist mainstream media newspapers and on the
    anti vendor TV stations.

    By falsely claiming to be the advocates for all NYC vendors,
    which they do at every public hearing on vending and throughout their
    the SVP helps the City Council and the BIDs weaken vending advocacy
    by marginalizing the voices and viewpoints of legitimate NYC
    vending organizations. In some instances the SVP has actually written
    the proposed anti vending legislation being considered by the City Council.

    The City Council routinely cites the SVP as an example of,
    “vendors supporting our legislation.”

    BIDs have become the real, unelected government of NYC. The Parks
    Department and even the NYPD have become totally subservient to the

    Many former high ranking NYPD officials go to work for the BIDs after
    they retire. BIDs have funded and built entire NYPD precincts, pay for
    NYPD uniforms and patrol cars
    and in some instances station their private BID police in the local NYPD
    stationhouse. This explains why most vending enforcement is initiated
    by the BIDs.

    Downtown Alliance BID pays for NYPD station. SEE:

    Even the NY Criminal Court system has been severely compromised by the BIDs.
    BIDs built and operate their own Midtown criminal court where many
    vendor summonses are adjudicated. SEE:

    Media outlets like the NY Times (founder of the virulently anti-vendor
    Times Square BID) feature glowing reports on the SVP on a regular basis while
    refusing to report one word on legitimate vendor advocacy groups.
    Not surprisingly, the NY Times is a financial contributor to the umbrella
    group that funds the SVP. It’s BID co-founded the Midtown Criminal Court
    where thousands of vendors summonses and arrests are heard.

    Exhibit #5
    The SVP makes numerous unfounded claims about vending and vendors

    On the Street Vendor Project website they absurdly claim to represent
    ALL of the approximately 14,000 vendors in NYC, including all
    of the city’s 1,500 street artists, yet their registered membership
    as described on their own website is only 750. Even that number
    is highly exaggerated.

    In reality the SVP is one of the smallest vending groups in NYC.

    Most of its members are not in any sense activists.
    The majority paid a large fee to join the SVP solely in order to get legal
    advice concerning a vending summons, advice which ARTIST and
    other legitimate vendor advocacy groups provide to anyone for free.

    Unlike genuine vendor advocacy groups in NYC, the so called
    vendor advocacy that SVP engages in is largely performed
    by the staffs of corporate run foundations, by the SVP’s paid staff
    and by unpaid college interns rather than by actual working vendors.
    It is the only “vendor advocacy” group in NY that was
    not founded by actual vendors.

    Exhibit #6
    The SVP falsely claims to be advocates for street artists

    Here is the reality of the SVP concerning street artists.

    In it’s 10 year existence, the SVP has brought one lawsuit involving artists.
    The case is called, Mastrovincenzo v City of NY.

    In the 2006 2nd circuit Federal Appeals Court ruling
    to this poorly written lawsuit, the craft-artist plaintiffs
    lost their right to sell on the street, yet, as of March 2009
    the Street Vendor Projects elaborately updated
    website still proudly claims the case was a victory for artists.

    In fact, the deceptive SVP website does not even acknowledge
    the existence of the 2006 Appeal Court ruling in their own lawsuit,
    preferring instead to only cite a lower court ruling from 2004
    that was later overturned.

    Here is what the NY Times wrote about the case:

    NY Times 1/7/06
    “Two New York City artists cannot sell hats painted with graffiti on
    the street unless they have a vendors’ licenses, the United States
    Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled. In a 2-to-1
    decision Thursday, the court overturned a 2004 decision from Manhattan
    Federal District Court that said the hats were artwork protected by
    the First Amendment and prevented the city from regulating the
    artists, Christopher Mastrovincenzo and Kevin Santos. The appeals
    court ruled that the city’s regulations were content-neutral and meant
    to alleviate traffic congestion. The court also said that the hats
    were different from canvas paintings, which are protected by a ruling.
    Deborah Brenner, the city’s chief lawyer in the case, said the
    decision would help address “significant congestion problems caused by
    unlicensed street vendors.” Sean Basinski, an Urban Justice Center
    lawyer who represented the artists, said, “We respectfully disagree
    with the court’s opinion and we are examining our options.”

    The SVP did not appeal this damaging ruling despite it contradicting
    the same exact courts’ previous rulings on street artists.

    In reality, the SVPs disastrous Mastrovincenzo case was a huge
    victory for the City Council and the BIDs and an
    unprecedented loss of freedom for all NYC artists.

    The result of Mastrovincenzo v City of NY was that
    every NYC craft vendor and artist making
    handpainted clothing, printed tee shirts, jewelry, pottery,
    original furniture or other crafts lost their rights.
    Despite this, the SVP ludicrously claims to be the
    sole advocate for the city’s craft vendors.

    Previous to that ruling, craft artists were informally
    considered by the NYPD and the courts to be exempt from a vending
    license along with painters, printmakers, photographers
    and sculptors – who today remain completely exempt from any license
    and fully protected by the ARTIST group’s Federal Court rulings.

    In other words, when NYC craft artists are arrested, confiscated or
    summonsed, as has become commonplace since 2006,
    they can directly thank the SVP’s legal advocacy for it.

    The negative effects of the SVP’s “advocacy” for artists has been far reaching,
    damaging artists’ rights from coast to coast.

    All street artists in Venice Beach California recently lost their
    right to sell without a permit or license when the local legislators
    used the ruling in the SVP’s Mastrovincenzo case as a precedent to
    strip artists there of their existing First Amendment rights.

    From: Michael Hunt and Matthew Dowd vs. City of Los Angeles
    9th District Federal Court 1/14/09
    “January 30, 2006, the Los Angeles City Council amended section
    42.15; the new ordinance took effect on March 25, 2006. According
    to the City, the Council modeled the amended ordinance on two court
    decisions, Mastrovincenzo v. City of New York, 435 F.3d 78 (2d Cir.
    2006), and People v. Foote, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 260 (2001)…
    Although an item may have some expressive purpose, it
    will be deemed to have more than nominal utility apart
    from its communication if it has a common and dominant
    non-expressive purpose…
    Indeed, the Second Circuit in Mastrovincenzo – the case
    on which the City primarily relies to support the 2006 version
    [of it's permit requirement]
    analogized decisions regarding expressive purpose to the “difficult
    line-drawing problems” that courts must resolve in First Amendment
    cases. See Mastrovincenzo v. City of New York, 435 F.3d 78, 95-96
    (2d Cir. 2006).. And the Second Circuit now specifically tasks
    courts with performing this analysis. Mastrovincenzo, 435 F.3d at 95-96;
    see Note 17, supra, pp. 37-38. A number of factors may signal the
    predominant purpose of such a sale, depending on the circumstances.
    Medium is one way to make such a determination. See White, 500 F.3d at 955-56.”

    Despite the many references to street artists on their website and in
    their literature, and the false claim to representing all NYC street artists,
    you will not find a single mention of the ARTIST groups
    15 years of successful advocacy or a single reference to the
    ARTIST Federal Court rulings anywhere in the SVP literature.
    Yet, much of their literature is quoted without attribution
    from the ARTIST website.

    Exhibit #7
    The SVP actively works against the interests of street artists

    The SVP helped write and publicly endorsed legislation (Intro #621)
    that proposed forcing First Amendment protected artists back into
    a vending license program, limiting them to 2 per block,
    fingerprinting all vendors and other gross violations of the First Amendment.

    Here is an excerpt from the SVP website on Intro# 621:

    “In April, 2005, after much advocacy from the Street Vendor Project
    and other groups, City Council Member Philip Reed introduced Intro.
    621, a proposal that would dramatically reshape the city’s vending
    laws…Kudos to Council Member Reed for having the courage to take on
    this complex and controversial issue, and for taking input from
    vendors as well as the business community.”

    The “other groups” advocating for Intro # 621 referred to above are the BIDs
    and other real estate interests.

    No vendor group (except SVP) supported the bill. Was it just a cooincidence
    that the only “vendor advocacy” group in NYC supporting the City Council’s
    efforts to severely limit street artists and all other legal vendors
    was the one group funded by the City Council?

    Exhibit #8
    The SVP defends the vending of copyright infringed and bootleg
    merchandise, depicts vendors as an underclass and damages the image of
    all NYC vendors.

    At the same time that the SVP has been trying to severely limit the rights
    of legal street artists and other legitimate First Amendment protected
    vendors, it’s director
    publicly defends the practice of illegal vendors selling copyright
    infringed, bootleg and counterfeit merchandise. Many of these bootleg
    vendors are members of the SVP.

    Excerpt from: Queens Courier 11/22/06
    City Council targets ‘bootleg’ vendors

    “Vendors of counterfeit goods, beware. A bill introduced to the City
    Council recently would let the City’s Department of Consumer Affairs
    (DCA) levy higher fines and summonses to peddlers selling bootleg
    DVDs, fake designer jeans, and faux bags… However, Sean Basinski,
    director of the Street Vendors Project, a non-profit dedicated to
    helping the estimated 10,000 street vendors in New York City, said
    that the new bill could hurt financially struggling vendors more than
    it helps. “Going after vendors is really going after the smallest fish
    in the pond,” Basinski said…”Many street vendors can barely support
    themselves with their earnings, said Basinski, who guessed vendors
    opted to sell counterfeit goods because they can usually fetch higher
    prices and better profits. All vendors who sell counterfeit goods are
    unlicensed, he said. “Even if you sell totally legitimate merchandise
    you are going to be arrested,” Basinski said. “Vendors think that you
    might as well sell what will make you money in those few hours that
    you have to sell before you have to run from the police.” According to
    a survey of city vendors by the Street Vendors Project, the average
    vendor supports 4.2 people with their earnings and receives 6.7
    summonses per year.”

    SVP has issued a number of slanted “academic” reports on vending which are
    frequently cited as supporting evidence by the very City Councilmembers
    who propose the most outrageous anti street artist and anti vending legislation.
    These studies appear to be aimed at undermining the existing legal
    protections won
    by artists and other vendors and turning all vendors into dependent clients of
    various NYC social service agencies. These are the very agencies that
    fund both the SVP
    and the Urban Justice Center.

    The image of vendors that is often promoted by the SVP is that we are
    an underclass similar to homeless people, drug addicts, the mentally
    ill and to sex workers. These are exactly the other “client groups”
    represented by the Urban Justice Center, SVP’s sponsor. While people
    in these categories of misfortune are unquestionably deserving of help
    from the city government, the question is, does it truly serve the
    long term interests of vendors to be depicted in this way?

    Many of the proposed vending laws now before the City Council treat
    vending as if it was a social problem rather than a social benefit or
    a legitimate occupation. Among the suggestions being made by
    Councilmembers associated with the SVP are relocating vendors off the
    streets, getting them training for other employment and putting them
    in rehabilitation programs. The image promoted by SVP is totally in
    alignment with this viewpoint.

    Despite receiving large amounts of taxpayer money from the City Council,
    the Street Vendor Project nevertheless charges even the poorest vendors a
    substantial fee to be members, to get legal advice or to be
    represented by them in court. There is no evidence to suggest that
    the outcome they get in court is any better than for vendors who
    represent themselves or who make use of a free Legal Aid attorney.

    Exhibit #9
    SVP deceives it’s own staff and puts its members at risk

    The SVP has falsely claimed credit for the contributions of many legitimate
    vending advocates, as well as appropriating slogans, signs and literature
    from other vendor groups without permission or acknowledgement.

    The deception involved in the operation of the SVP extends to
    keeping the actual vendor-members of it (most of whom speak little English)
    in the dark about it’s goals, as well as deceiving the many well-intentioned
    college interns who work for the SVP without salary. The vendor
    members and these interns all mistakenly believe themselves to be
    part of a legitimate vendor advocacy group.

    If these well-intentioned interns were working with genuine vendor
    advocacy groups, they might actually be making a great contribution to vending
    rather than helping the City Council destroy it.

    On the Street Vendor Projects website are displayed photos of
    hundreds of it’s vendor members. Considering that many are described
    in SVP literature as illegal immigrants and/or illegal vendors, one
    might ask why the SVP
    is making this elaborate photo display of “mug shots” so publicly
    available to the NYPD, the Department of Justice and to immigration authorities.


    No legitimate vendor organizations in NYC work with the SVP because
    we have all come to view it as a compromised government-controlled front group
    that cannot be trusted. While the individual members and most of the staff
    have nothing but good intentions concerning vending, the net result of the SVP’s
    advocacy is harmful to the interests of all NYC vendors at the same time
    it is extremely helpful to the BIDs and to City Councilmembers
    with an anti-vending agenda.

    Don’t be fooled. The SVP is a tool of the City Council and the BIDs.

  • I wonder if Bossman will consider that comment to be of appropriate length

  • OH NO Block this troll… we already have our own troll!

  • Zach can you delete that spam? Troll, whatever.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Are any of you intelligent enough to actually read what I wrote before commenting on it? If you do, you will see it is all backed up with verifiable references and facts. Or does SVP have you so brainwashed that you dare not actually read it?

  • artistpres: You know, the 53rd street cart serves their streetmeat in foil tins. After you enjoy a nice platter for lunch, you can wash it out and make a lovely yet effective hat from it.

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