UPPER EAST SIDE — The local community board was already scheduled to meet this week about neighbors' concerns over the growing number of street vendors, including increased trash and sidewalk congestion.
Then news broke that the city is planning to double the number of street vending permits it issues by 2023 — meaning a total of 8,000 vendors could be on city streets over the next seven years.
The City Council introduced the vendor legislation Oct. 13, and a hearing about the bill is set for Oct. 26.
"The immediacy of this has taken us all by surprise," said Michele Birnbaum, co-chair of Community Board 8's Vendor Task Force Committee.
On Thursday, CB8 is holding a joint Vendor Task Force and Small Business Committee meeting and is encouraging small businesses, store owners, residents, block associations, business improvement districts — and street vendors — to attend.
The committees are hoping to gather information from affected small businesses and residents to come up with an action plan that includes either a rezoning proposal or something else, members said.
The meeting had been scheduled since before summer, but is now even more timely. It comes on the heels of the City Council's push to pass the Street Vending Modernization Act, which boost the number of permits to 8,000 by 2023 and create a vendor law-enforcement unit.
Last October, the Vendor Task Force slammed the idea when it was floated by local officials, saying there were already enough problems to solve with the 3,000 year-round food truck permits and 853 general merchandise permits the city issues on a yearly basis, according to the city's Department of Consumer Affair's website.
"There’s litter from food vendors, food waste, we have rats, we have sidewalk congestion, we have non-compliance all over the place, whether it's them setting up on top of a fire hydrant, or less [than] 20 feet in front of an entrance," Upper East Side resident Andrew Fine said at the time.
The task force wrote a letter denouncing a permit increase and called on city officials to consider how street vending was affecting neighborhoods.
"The devil is in the details," Birnbaum said on Tuesday. "The bill is calling for an enforcement squad, but we don't know how many people will be on it. You need to have a proportion on how many. The bill doesn't spell any of that out."
Birnbaum said officials from the Mayor's Office, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Health Department have also been invited to the meeting in the hope of gathering as much information as possible.
The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 at Hunter College's glass cafe on the third floor of its west building on the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue and East 68th Street.