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Website Helps Food Vendors Near Occupy Wall Street Stay Afloat

By Julie Shapiro | November 7, 2011 11:49am

LOWER MANHATTAN — A new website is trying to shore up food vendors near Zuccotti Park who have seen customers vanish ever since Occupy Wall Street set up camp there seven weeks ago.

The Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit group that helps vendors across the city, launched a website on Friday in partnership with OWS that allows people from all over the world to buy food for the protesters from the local vendors.

As of Monday morning, the Street Vendor Project had already received more than $700 in donations for the vendors, including contributions from as far away as Thailand.

"Occupy Wall Street has made a large impact on the political discussion in this country. But the presence has caused local street vendors to lose business," reads the website, streetvendor.org/ows#.

"[Zuccotti Park] was a place where many people sat to eat lunch each day and now it is occupied by the protestors. In addition, the large police presence and general activity around the protest has made it a less relaxing place to spend your lunch hour. That coupled with the extremely generous donations of food to the movement have made business tough for local vendors," the site continues, before urging people to donate online.

Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project, which is part of the Urban Justice Center, said the partnership came about spoke to many vendors along Cedar Street and Broadway who saw their sales decline since Occupy Wall Street started in Sept. 17.

"The vendors support the goals [of Occupy Wall Street], but some of them have been hurting in their pockets," Basinski added. "This could really make a big difference for the vendors."

Basinski said parking and unloading became more difficult with the massive police and media presence around Zuccotti Park, some regular customers stayed away to avoid the chaos and many of the protesters already had access to free food at Occupy Wall Street so they did not patronize the vendors, Basinski said.

Basinski plans to begin distributing the money to the nine regular vendors in Zuccotti Park and on the plaza across Broadway on Monday afternoon. Participants include New York Hot Dog Cart, Sam's Falafel, Aly's Breakfast Cart, Coffee on the Run, Bombay Biryani, NY Life Juice and Fruit Salad Bar, Biryani House, 99% Vegetarian and A-Pou's Taste.

Occupy Wall Street's community relations team said in an announcement Monday that they were happy to help the vendors.

"New York City street vendors, as small business entrepreneurs, represent a diverse cross-section of the 99%," the community relations team said.

"Through this platform, vendors will be able to participate in the growing excitement of the OWS movement and contribute to sustaining it."

A different group of food vendors a couple blocks away on Wall Street also had reason to celebrate last week, as they were able to return to their spots near Federal Hall for the first time since Sept. 17, after the NYPD scaled back its barricades there.