Today the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s Andrew Rigie and Max Bookman participated in a press conference and City Council hearing about proposed street vendor legislation.
If passed, the legislation would approximately double the number of existing mobile vending permits by adding 4,000 new permits over the next 10 years. The proposed legislation would also loosen food cart placement requirements, establish a vendor regulation enforcement squad and create a vendor advisory board.
While there are certain provisions in this proposal we support, we have many concerns that as drafted it will exacerbate conflicts among some brick and mortar restaurants and mobile vendors.
Comments on Mobile Vending Reform
Thursday, April 11, 2019, at 10:00 am
Council Chambers, City Hall, New York, NY
The New York City Hospitality Alliance (“The Alliance”) is a not-for-profit association representing thousands of eating and drinking establishments throughout the five boroughs that are impacted by the proposed package of mobile vending legislation.
Today, general merchandise vendors, newsstand operators, food vendors, and sidewalk cafes all contribute to the New York City streetscape. Yet our city’s system for regulating commercial uses of the public sidewalk is broken. Unfortunately, many of our city’s brick and mortar businesses are broken too, as evidenced by the vacant storefronts that line so many of our neighborhoods’ streets. That’s why we support comprehensive commercial sidewalk reform that helps vendors and brick and mortar businesses. Unfortunately, that’s not what this package of legislation does.
Enforcement continues to be an afterthought. While the Office of Street Vendor Enforcement contemplated by this legislation is a step in the right direction, it is only a small step.
In three important areas, the proposal is silent or misguided:
- No dedicated funding, leaving the efficacy of the office to the whim of the Mayor and future administrations.
- No administrative home. We suggest the Department of Health, an obvious choice given their familiarity with regulating this industry.
- Insufficient patrols. The bill mandates that the office inspect at least 75% of permittees each year. Every permittee should at minimum get an annual inspection.
Committing to double the number of permits with no conditions is bad policy. This legislation doesn’t provide an effective mechanism to swiftly modify, delay, or halt the increase of permits if conditions dictate.
- DOHMH, DOT and/or the selected enforcement agency should have authority and discretion to limit new permits.
- If specific enforcement goals are not met, or if noncompliance amongst permitholders remains at a certain metric, issuance of new permits should be automatically delayed.
- If the number of brick-and-mortar vacancies rises above a certain level, or if vacancies increase by a certain percentage in a year, issuance of new permits should be automatically delayed.
Get vending permits in the right hands by revoking illegally rented permits and reissuing them to the vendors themselves. There must be regulation of the underground market. Instead of initially issuing new permits, the City should revoke illegally rented permits, and then reissue them to those vendors who rented them.
Two additions to the clearance requirements. Since this package of bills addresses clearance criteria for food vendors, we suggest two more:
- Improve sidewalk café air quality by requiring food vendors to keep a minimum distance away from sidewalk cafes. That way sidewalk café customers can dine without breathing the exhaust emitted by vending units, or the excessive smoke that comes from cooking certain foods in the open air.
- Protect pedestrians with a minimum clear path. Like the clearance criteria for newsstands and sidewalk cafes, there must be a fixed minimum clear path requirement for mobile food vendors, such as 9.5 feet measured from the front of the pushcart to the nearest lawful obstruction, and 15 feet on either side. This is especially necessary given the proposed bill to allow carts to be placed 2 feet from the curb.