After Aggressive Enforcement Against Fruit Vending Family, NYC Public Advocate Introduces Transparency Bill

June 6th, 2024

Press Release

NEW YORK: Days after a young girl was aggressively accosted by law enforcement while selling fruit with her mother in Battery Park, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams introduced legislation requiring the city to report key information on street vendor enforcement actions. This bill would provide vital transparency and help ensure that procedures are followed, priorities are clear, and abuses are prevented.

 “This week, we all witnessed the dangerous consequences of criminalization, of responding to every issue with law enforcement. A young girl and her mother were confronted and brutalized while simply trying to earn a living for their family,” said Public Advocate Williams in introducing the bill. “By providing transparency into the process and practice of street vendor enforcement, in conjunction with comprehensive reform, we can help curb the criminalization of New York City’s smallest businesses and lead with information and engagement, not aggressive, unnecessary enforcement tactics.”

Intro 947, proposed at today’s Stated Meeting of the City Council, would require quarterly reporting on a wide range of information related to street vendor enforcement, including:

  • The location and date of the interaction
  • Whether the enforcement interaction was initiated due to complaints
  • Whether the vendor was arrested or issued a civil or criminal summons
  • Whether the vendor’s items were seized, and what items were being sold
  • What documentation was requested of the vendor
  • Whether there had been prior enforcement interactions with the same street vendor
  • Whether a language interpreter was provided during the interaction.

The legislation follows a 2021 law establishing an unit for street vendor enforcement, originally a part of the Department of Consumer and Workforce Protection before the Adams administration moved the unit to the Department of Sanitation. That enforcement is intended to be focused on areas with a high volume of complaints, high congestion, or close proximity to produce retailers.

Street vendor enforcement practices have frequently been scrutinized for aggressive interactions with the public, which spurred the legislation to establish a separate enforcement unit for the industry other than the NYPD. However, the NYPD continues to be involved in enforcement, as seen in the recent video of the Battery Park confrontation. 

The new bill also supplements a package of bills originally introduced at the end of 2023 to support street vendors, including legislation from the Public Advocate which would create a division of Street Vendor Assistance within the Department of Small Business Services. The package also includes bills to promote business licensing and regulatory compliance of all mobile food and merchandise, reduce the criminal liability on food and merchandise vending, and establish siting rules and regulations for licensed and permitted vendors. 

Street vending in New York has always been significant in the city’s economy. Nearly 20,000 individuals are employed as street vendors to date. Street vending has played an important role in the city's growth, supporting immigrants, people of color, and military veterans to successfully operate the city’s smallest businesses, while creating entrepreneurs along the way. 

Under the current system, thousands of vendors have been waitlisted for food vendor permits, with some of them waiting for decades. As was seen in Battery Park last weekend, the city’s approach to vendors leaves many individuals harassed, unfairly arrested, and without adequate resources or clear regulations.

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