New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, October 26, 2009

Law School

If you want to be confused and perplexed, try wading through the regulations regarding vending on the streets of New York City. If you want to be disheartened, try looking at some of the facts and figures regarding the vending of merchandise. And if you want to be discouraged from earning a living this way, look at the costs of vending, fines, confiscation of goods, and the uneven application of the law.
Welcome to the circle of confusion - the world of street vending, where laws are difficult to understand by both vendors and police alike.

In this economic climate, jobs are difficult to nonexistent. Street vending is a way to earn a living and, for some, a way into the world of business. The costs involved in setting up a retail establishment are prohibitive in New York for most individuals. Many well-known businesses in New York City started on the streets, such as Bloomingdales, Macy's, Cohen's Fashion Optical, and Goldman Sachs.

There are approximately 12,000 street vendors in New York City. There are four categories of vendors: food vendors, general merchandise vendors, veteran vendors, and First Amendment vendors, who may sell newspapers, magazines, cd’s, books, and art on the street without a vending license. There certainly are abuses with First Amendment vendors - a lot of merchandise is sold under this class to avoid the difficulties dealing with vendor's licenses and permits, which are extremely difficult to get and have created a black market.

It is virtually impossible in New York City to get a general merchandise vendor's license. In 1979, City Council created a cap of 853 on the number of merchandise licenses. There is such a long waiting list that the Department of Consumer Affairs has not taken new names since 1992.

Food vendors need a license, on which there is no limit. However, they also need a Department of Health permit, which are limited at about 3,000 city-wide. Lotteries are held every few years to distribute any excess permits, but the average wait is still many years. Many food vendors who do not have their own permits enter into relationships with permit holders to use their permits, for a fee. There are no limits on veterans' permits.

The women in the photo (on Canal Street) had a vendor's license but not a food permit to sell fruit. In addition to fines, their merchandise was hauled away by the police. Each year in New York City, approximately 50,000 tickets are issued and 7,000 vendors are arrested. In 2005, the Bloomberg administration raised maximum fines from $250 to $1000.

There are regulations regarding where and how you can sell: The sidewalk must be at least 12 feet wide (veterans are exempt), and you must be at least 20 feet from any store entrance, 10 feet from a crosswalk, 5 feet from a bus shelter, 20 feet from a sidewalk cafe, and less than 18 inches from the curb. You can not set up over a ventilation grill or touch a fire hydrant or lamp post. There are also regulations regarding the vending table's size and other details. See here for a brochure outlining the facts and regulations.

Everything considered, a little more money and study will get you a civil service job or admission to law school :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry for them, but it is true... as you say here!