Street Vendors Under Attack From Rich Organizations

November 17, 2014 | Rhett Jones

Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership and Bryant Park Management Corporation, hates food carts. After “cleaning up” Bryant Park and turning it into a destination for tourists and fashionistas, Biederman believes his new mission should be eliminating the distasteful scourge of street meat.

Representing some powerful stakeholders, including Vornado, Madison Square Garden, and Macy’s, Biederman says that street carts are ugly and that they block sidewalks. He also claims they represent unfair competition to the better-funded brick-and-mortars because they have more lax health regulations. In Biederman’s opinion, there are too many street carts in the city.

The NYC Health Department, however, says there has been no rise in the number of food carts citywide. According to Crain’s:

There are 5,100 truck and cart permits, a number that is capped by the city’s Administrative Code and has not increased for several years. There are approximately 18,000 licensed vendors—who prepare and sell the food on the streets—and that number is similarly unchanged since 2010. But violations have increased to 11,268 in fiscal year 2014 from 9,897 the previous year.

Sean Basinski of the Street Vendor Project says that his constituents believe “Dan Biederman hates vendors and is a racist against [them],” due to the fact that vendors are predominantly minorities or immigrants and earn low wages.

Issues of class may be as big a factor as race. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had a similar war on vendors, supposedly motivated by aesthetic concerns.

(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)