New York Times Editorial: Lift the Cap on Vendors in NYC

After years of suffering under stringent regulations, mobile food vendors in New York City could soon be getting much needed relief from the city. A new bill, the Street Vending Modernization Act, was recently proposed by Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito.  The bill would create a new vending specific enforcement agency and as much as double the number of available street vending permits in the city over the next seven years.

On Monday, The New York Times endorsed the bill in editorial,

It’s the right impulse, not just for hungry office workers but also for hungry entry-level entrepreneurs — the moms and pops who increasingly find it too expensive and difficult to open mom-and-pop businesses here.

[…]Maybe the worst consequence, from an eater’s standpoint, is the stifling of innovation. That is, vendors who can’t risk losing their investment sell only what they know will sell: hot dogs.

For decades the city has capped the number of citywide permits at just 3,000. By capping the number of permits, the price has skyrocketed to as much as $20,000 on the underground market, which was created when the caps were first enacted in the 1980s. The permits actually cost $200 to renew for 2 years when obtained legally.

Even highly successful food trucks are buckling under the weight of the current system. Last year, two highly rated food trucks, Cinnamon Snail and Mexican Blvd., were forced to shut down because of the uncertainty of relying on an underground market to continue renewing their licenses.

Mexico Blvd. operator Jordi Loaeza told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a sketchy situation. It’s not always easy to find someone you can trust to hand all this cash to.”

Despite the current restrictions, vendors make significant contributions to the city’s economy. IJ’s report, Upwardly Mobile, found that in New York City vendors supported nearly 18,000 jobs, contributed over $190 million in wages and paid $71.2 million in local, state and federal taxes in 2012 alone. Imagine what they could achieve if the city would just let enterprise flourish.

Vendors have suffered long enough under this system. The Street Vendor Project and IJ are working together to defend vendor’s economic liberty. Although ultimately the city should abolish the limit on vending permits altogether, raising the cap on vending permits is a step in the right direction.

Check out IJ’s petition to lift the caps!

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