MIDTOWN — About 100 street food vendors were blindsided by the city’s decision to cordon off 13 blocks between Herald Square and Times Square for the Super Bowl weekend celebrations, a group advocating for the vendors' rights says.
"They told me I can’t work until Monday and that if I worked they would take my truck away,” said Waleed Salama, 46, who operates a Halal truck on 46th and Broadway. "We run small businesses, I have a wife and kids to feed, but these big corporations make so much money. I also have to pay rent. It is not fair."
More than a dozen of the street food vendors protested Saturday just next to the ESPN commentary booth at 34th Street and Broadway to voice their displeasure over their abrupt eviction to make way for "Super Bowl Boulevard" — a section of Broadway the city's cordoned off for NFL-sponsored football events and live concerts.
Starting on Wednesday, street vendors who, like Salama, were parked along Broadway between 34th and 47th Streets started to be repeatedly approached about removing their trucks from the streets through the weekend, the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit that represents 2,000 street vendors throughout the city, said.
The Super Bowl is expected to bring between $550 and $600 million to the city, officials say.
“This thing happens all too often, but when we thought about it, we realized how wrong it is and what a problem it is that big corporations have taken over 13 blocks of Broadway for this weekend,” said Sean Basinski, who works with the Urban Justice Center, which organizes for the group.
“Why shouldn’t the vendors get to participate in the upside, in the increased business that the Super Bowl is bringing?" asked Basinski, who started receiving frantic calls from vendors on Wednesday night.
He said the city spent a year of planning for the event, during which they could have notified the vendors instead of just waiting till the weekend of the event and kicking them out of their prime-location spots.
The Times Square Alliance, which partners with the NFL for the events, was looking into the reports, a spokeswoman said.
Some vendors said they would have liked to been approached about compensation for the involuntary days of lost weekend traffic, but others would have just preferred a shot at the action, like two vendors who set up anyway on Saturday to try and net what customers they could.
"I’m excited about the Super Bowl and the business it brings. My business has already doubled today,” said Mohammad Mohammad, 31, who parked two blocks north of his normal spot at 34th Street Saturday.
Mohammad and another vendor were evicted shortly thereafter, an eyewitness told DNAinfo.com New York.
The police did not respond to requests for a comment.
Basinski said the group would not pursue legal recourse because they would not have enough time to get the remedy the group needs.