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Restaurants air concerns about doubling the number of NYC street vendors

Photograph: Shutterstock

As warming weather draws more pedestrians outdoors, New York City restaurants are urging municipal officials to consider how access to brick-and-mortar businesses could worsen if a proposal to add 4,000 sidewalk vendors is pushed through in its current form.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance, a trade group representing Big Apple restaurants, bars and hotels, is pushing for amendments that include setting a minimum distance between street vendors and restaurants’ sidewalk seating, so patrons won’t have to breath fumes from food carts. They’re also asking for provisions to keep sidewalks passable, such as minimum clearances between carts and front doors. 

The Alliance is also asking that the pace of issuing 4,000 more sidewalk-vending permits over the next 10 years be slowed if necessary to protect brick-and-mortar businesses. For instance, if storefront vacancies hit a certain threshold, civic officials would slow the rate of awarding mobile-vendor licenses. The process would also decelerate if a certain percentage of carts failed to meet safety standards set by the city.

The Alliance said it wants more diligent enforcement of those standards than the current proposal requires. The initiative under consideration by city lawmakers specifies that 75% of all mobile vendors would be inspected annually. The restaurant community contends that every cart and kiosk should be checked for safety violations at least once a year.

Fixed eateries are also demanding that funding for the inspection process be mandated as part of New York’s annual budget, and that responsibility for inspections be assigned now to a government agency, instead of leaving enforcement up in the air.

The proposal to permit another 4,000 street vendors would double the number of sunglass sellers, food carts and incense sellers who legally set up shop on the Big Apple’s famed sidewalks. “Committing to double the number of permits with no conditions is bad policy,” the Alliance said in a statement.

Tensions often run high among mobile merchants, the businesses in front of which they park, and even pedestrians trying to navigate the packed sidewalks.


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