Tightening the Law on Street Vendors

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As street vendors of various stripes have proliferated in recent years, the city has struggled to keep up with enforcement of laws and regulations that don't adequately address the issues that vendors and the public who interact with them encounter. Several city council members are hoping to change that, and the Consumer Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing this Tuesday, April 24, in order to discuss seven new proposed bills and hear from the public about what they should make legislative priorities in terms of dealing with vendors. The proposed bills strike a balance between easing up on vendors and tightening or clarifying restrictions placed on them. "There are seven bills that are on the committee's agenda, and the common theme of all of them is fairness-fairness to residents and businesses, fairness to vendors and fairness to taxpayers," said Council Member Dan Garodnick, who chairs the committee and whose Upper East Side district routinely deals with a high number of vendors at popular spots along Central Park South and Fifth Avenue. The arrivals of food vendor trucks outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the spot where Tavern on the Green used to operate has stirred major controversy along with culinary delight among residents who debate just how these trucks should be regulated. "We have had a real challenge on the Upper East Side of vendors who are not operating within the applicable rules, either blocking entrances or exits of buildings or simply being in other areas where they are not permitted," Garodnick said. The bills he has sponsored would straighten out some discrepancies in how vendors are regulated as well as clarify where, exactly, permitted vendors are allowed to set up their wares. One bill would disallow any vendors in front of the no-standing zones outside hospitals, areas designated for patient drop-off and pick-up; another standardizes the required distance from a store's entrance or exit at which a vendor can set up at 20 feet. Previously, that distance varied depending on multiple factors, resulting in confusion not just for vendors but for police officers trying to enforce the rules. Garodnick has also penned a bill that would tie the holders of a vending permit (for example, the owner of a taco truck) to the holder of the vending license (the employee on site who actually makes and sells the tacos) so permit holders are held responsible for settling the fines of their licensees. City Council Member Gale Brewer, who is sponsoring a bill that would ensure that food truck vendors are not allowed to park in taxi stand zones, said that she hears about vendor issues from constituents all the time, and that the laws aren't always entirely clear, even to those who deal with them every day. "I support vendors in general. It's very hard; they have to follow the law and they have to follow protocol, although some don't," Brewer said. "The laws are so confusing, I think it's good to make them as streamlined as possible.".

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