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SoHo Street Vendors Protest Unfair Regulations, Caps on Permits

By Irene Plagianos | January 19, 2016 6:09pm
 Street vendors gathered outside of the 1st Precinct in Manhattan to protest unfair regulations and the need for more permits.
Street vendors gathered outside of the 1st Precinct in Manhattan to protest unfair regulations and the need for more permits.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

LOWER MANHATTAN — Chanting "We want respect," and carrying hand-drawn signs, a small group of SoHo street vendors gathered outside of the NYPD's 1st Precinct headquarters in the blustery cold Tuesday afternoon, protesting what they say are unfair practices and regulations that are killing their businesses.

"They [police] are making it impossible for us to work," said Margerite Diop, a vendor of hats, gloves and scarves in SoHo. "They harass us, ticket us, when we're just trying to make a living."

A central problem for Diop and other SoHo vendors is a city administrative code that says vendors must be at least 20 feet from any building entrance — a requirement that she and other vendor advocates say is "impossible" to meet for most sellers on Broadway.

Diop said for years she was located on Broadway near Prince Street, where foot traffic is high, but in recent months, thanks to "over-policing," she's been forced to move to Houston and Crosby streets. The "unfair" relocation has cut her sales in half because of fewer passersby, she said.

'[Police] don't even measure [the 20 foot distance], they just told us we can't be on Broadway," Diop said. "We just want to work, like we've always done."

 

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Other protesters, who numbered about 50 on Tuesday, said they were angry about increased ticketing by police — as well as how tough it is to get a permit in the first place, with permit number caps in place.

Vendor advocate group The Street Vendor Project, which organized the protest, said that the city issued fewer than 5,000 merchandise and food permits in 2014, pushing vendors to either sell illegally or buy black market permits that can sell for upwards of $20,000. In comparison, legal permits issued by the city cost $200.

Vendor protests against unfair ticketing across the city have been ramping up in recent months. In September, scores of vendors gathered at City Hall to protest ticketing, among other issues with policy and policing.

Protesters also planned to march along Canal Street, and protest outside of the 5th Precinct headquarters Tuesday. SoHo is policed by officers from both the 1st and 5th Precincts. 

The 1st Precinct declined to comment about the protesters.