NYPD to Stop Policing New York City's Street Food Vendors
The change in policy comes as part of reforms intended to refocus police resources on "the real drivers of crime."
On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced four new reforms to the city's Police Department, the first of "many steps" that he says his office will be taking in order to "strengthen trust between officers and the New Yorkers they serve."
In addition to pledging to reallocate police department funds to youth development organizations and social services for communities of color, and to hire community ambassadors that will serve as intermediaries between citizens and police officers, de Blasio also announced that the NYPD will no longer be issuing tickets to street vendors, nor will the department be the agency that oversees vendor enforcement, going forward.
"The City will shift enforcement for street vending out of NYPD so our officers can focus on the real drivers of crime instead of administrative infractions," the Mayor's office said. "This will further the Administration’s de-escalation agenda by reducing interactions between uniform officers and New Yorkers, particularly immigrant communities and communities of color."
This news was well received by the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center, which has been working towards the decriminalization of street vending for the past two decades—but the group also says there is still work to be done when it comes to ensuring that vendors can operate in the city without the fear of being arrested for minor infractions.
"The Street Vendor Project for many years organized street vendors and demanded that the NYPD stop harassing vendors. Street vending isn’t a crime and street vendors aren’t criminals," Mohamed Attia, the Executive Director of the Street Vendor Project, said in a statement. "The Mayor’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but we need more clarity and further action to lift the cap on street vending permits and licenses, and defund the NYPD."
Margaret Chin, a member of the New York City Council whose district covers Lower Manhattan, also praised de Blasio's decision. "The history of NYPD‘s interactions with street vendors is one fraught with fear, mistrust, silencing, and the unjust seizure of property and inventory rightfully owned by a community largely comprised of immigrant women," she said. "As our city begins the path to reopen, vendor relief must be an integral part of our economic recovery plan."
Earlier this year, Council Member Chin co-sponsored Intro 1116, a citywide vendor reform bill that would create an independent agency responsible for vendor enforcement, and it would also remove the citywide cap on vendor licenses that has been in place for more than 40 years. (Between 1979 and 1983, the city drastically reduced the number of food vending permits, cutting them from 12,000 to 3,000.)
According to the Street Vendor Project's own research, for the past three years, the NYPD has issued an average of 18,000 tickets to vendors every year. In late May, the NYPD ticketed three vendors in Queens for selling tamales and flowers without the appropriate vendor license—and again, according to the Street Vendor Project, new licenses haven't been available since 1979.
"None of us have received any [government] aid,” one of the vendors told the Jackson Heights Post. “I have to work—how am I going to tell my son there’s no food for him tonight?”