• Ryan Adams

New York’s unlicensed street vendors tired of paying fines

Updated: Feb 9

By Jorge Fuentelsaz



New York, Jan 30 (EFE).- The thousands of unlicensed street vendors in New York City, who – far from the tourist attractions of Manhattan – offer all sorts of food, from Mexican tamales to Egyptian kebabs, are tired of the continuous fines they are being handed by local authorities and want to normalize their status.

Despite the snow and the cold that these days are making the Big Apple shiver, Ecuadorians Gladis and Jenny have been working since five in the morning on Crowne Plaza in Queens selling tamales, champurrados, arroz con leche and coffee to the early-bird workers in the area.

“Sometimes they’ve taken our food, (or) they’ve kicked us out, although nothing has happened here because of the pandemic. We don’t have work, we have to devote ourselves to this and I have a 12-year-old boy and I don’t get anything from the government, nothing. And I support him from this (work),” Gladis told EFE, protecting herself from the snow with a big-brimmed beach hat.

They’ve been on a war footing since the outbreak of Covid-19 and last Thursday about 200 people gathered on Herald Square, at the intersection of 34th St. and Broadway, to call on state lawmakers to support two new bills giving all street vendors sales permits based on sanitation and health criteria and not as per the city’s quota for awarding such permits.

“We’re raising our voices so that finally they approve that law and give us permits to work with dignity. It’s the only work we have to put food on our tables,” Clotilde Juarez, a Mexican mother of three US-born kids, told EFE, with great emotion.

Juarez sells chalupas and cornmeal snacks in Queens, “rain, storm or snow.” She said that she started out as a street seller two decades ago and that she had stopped temporarily to work in a laundromat but the pandemic crisis left her without a job and that pushed her to resume selling snacks from her vending cart.

She is an undocumented immigrant, like the majority of the thousands of street vendors who make their living by offering their wares and food items on the streets.

“Everything we do, we do out of simple necessity. It’s our last option, because we know that they’re coming and they’ll take this spot from us, they’ll throw (our goods) in the trash, they’ll kick us our of the parks, but if you’re a parent you have to do it, you have to pay for your food, your rent,” Juarez said.

Speaking at the last demonstration, called by the Street Vendor Project non-governmental organization, was state Sen. Jessica Ramos, the sponsor of a new bill to facilitate the awarding of licenses to street vendors in New York boroughs with more than one million residents.