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Street Vendors March Through Times Square to Demand More Permits

By Gwynne Hogan | November 19, 2015 12:30pm
 Street vendors from across the city marched on Times Square on Wednesday protesting the city's long-standing caps on the amount of permits it gives to street vendors. 
Street Vendor Protest
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TIMES SQUARE — Street vendors marched on Times Square Wednesday chanting "No more black market" to protest the the shortage of city permits for street sellers.

The vendors called on the city to lift the three-decade freeze on issuing new licenses.

"I wish I had my own permit," said Fatma Shaalan, 58, who's worked for eight years selling coffee out of a cart as an employee for a woman who's had a permit for decades. 

"It would be a big change in my life. I would work for myself and not anybody else."

Advocates for street vendors argue that the current caps force many vendors to sell their wares illegally subjecting them to fines and harassment from police, while others are roped into the black market where city granted permits that cost $200 dollars are sold for upwards of $20,000.

"We're not selling drugs; we're not selling weapons to make a lot of money," said Hector Palaguachi, 50, who's sold freshly squeezed juices for six years in northern Manhattan without a permit. 

Last month he had to pay $3,000 for doing so illegally, he said. "It's just juice. It costs $3."

Even Police Commissioner Bill Bratton admitted how complex the rules that govern street vendors are, especially in Times Square where police have increased their ticketing of street vendors by around 400 percent.

But lifting the cap off the amount of licenses that can be issued is not without opposition. Some brick and mortar establishments claim that street vendors threaten their livelihood

"There's near-universal consensus that New York City's street vendor permit system is broken," wrote the two co-chairs of the  Business Improvement District Association

"But pinning the ills of that system on the permit cap dramatically oversimplifies a complex issue."