City Council Approves Changes to Street Vendor System

Image credit: New York City Council.

The new bill releases 4,000 new street vendor permits over the course of ten years. On January 28, 2021, the City Council voted to approve Int 1116-B, which provides significant changes to the street vendor system. Prior to the legislation, the number of street vendor permits had been capped at 3,000 since 1983. Given the high demand for permits, limiting the number of permits opened an illegal market for renting out permits. Int 1116-B, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin, was created to address these issues by releasing more permits and creating more oversight. 

Beginning in July 2022, the new legislation will allow for the release of 400 food vending permits a year for ten years. Of those, 100 permits will allow for Manhattan vending, while the others will allow for vending in the outer boroughs. Under the new law, a permit holder must always be present at the cart. All permits, both existing and new, will transfer to this new system by 2032. Adding 4,000 new permits over ten years helps address the high demand for permits and requiring all permit holders to be at their carts closes the illegal loophole of renting out permits.

The new legislation will also establish an office of street vendor enforcement to create a dedicated unit to enforce street vending laws. This unit will have a focus on areas where there are many street vendors and issues with congestion. The enforcement unit will conduct street patrols aimed to inspect or examine at least 75 percent of vendors on an annual basis. In addition, the office of street vendor enforcement will work with the Department of Small Business Services to educate and train street vendors on entrepreneurship and compliance. The office will handle complaints about vendors made to 311. 

The bill also establishes a street vendor advisory board that includes relevant city agencies, street vendors and representatives from the real estate and business community. This advisory board will monitor the enforcement unit, the distribution of new permits, and make further recommendations to the City Council and the Mayor. 

In addition, the bill requires food and general merchandise vendors to maintain a twenty foot distance from stoop line stands and sidewalk cafes to address congestion issues.

Council Member Chin stated, “Introduction 1116 finally puts an end to the underground market that currently preys on hardworking food vendors, the majority of whom are immigrant entrepreneurs. The gradual release of new permits in tandem with the creation of a dedicated enforcement unit protects those who are already vending and creates a streamlined and transparent system for vendors, businesses, and the public. Food vendors have always been part of New York City’s small business community; in fact, many successful restaurants started their business from a food cart. Vendors contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of our city and they deserve to make a living in a legal, dignified way.”

The legislation is currently awaiting the Mayor’s signature.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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