After eradicating all crime in New York City, the NYPD can finally stamp out the real threat to New Yorkers: churro vendors.
In late March, the NYPD arrested three women at the Union Square subway station for peddling churros without a license. Each woman was arrested, ticketed and is due in court on May 14. These vendors can face fines ranging from $50 to $1,000.
According to DNAinfo:
Police cited law that deems it “unlawful for any individual to act as a food vendor without having first obtained a license” from the city Health Department.
But in general, it is illegal to do any commercial activity in the subway system without authorization from the MTA, and obstructing the flow of traffic is also not permitted, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
After press reports of these arrests, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote to the MTA:
It appears that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority currently makes no allowances for mobile concessions. This is a shame, since a program allowing the MTA to selectively allow for mobile vendors could have many benefits for commuters and entrepreneurs alike.
Immigrant entrepreneurs in our city need more avenues to support themselves and their families without creating a rap sheet, and there is clearly a market for mobile concessions in subway stations.
This isn’t the first time police have cracked down on churros. Ana Alvarado, a single mother of two, has been arrested seven times for selling her churros between 2013 and 2014. She’s been held overnight in a precinct holding cell. After police confiscated her churros, Alvarado even claims that they ate her churros right in front of her.
During a three-month period in 2014, the NYPD arrested 89 churro sellers and other underground vendors. That was an 80 percent increase from the year before.
In 2013, The Village Voice examined “the illegal underground economy behind churros” and profiled vendors who work 80-hour weeks hawking these fried cylinders of deliciousness. The vendors, who are typically Latin American immigrants, shouldn’t have to risk police harassment just to support their families.
Vendors face harassment in other cities as well. In Los Angeles, street vending is a crime punishable with fines up to $1,000. The Institute for Justice is working to legalize or expand freedom for food trucks and street vendors in dozens of cities.
— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice