13. Create guidelines and programs for licensed street vendors for the activation of the public realm.

WHY Street vendors have been important to the fabric of New York’s neighborhoods for a long time. These microbusinesses face challenges in order to operate in our public realm— in particular, caps on general vendor licenses as well as the inevitable waiting lists and black markets that result from these caps. Additionally, there are many other important uses of the public realm, including waste management, movement of goods, people and public safety. The passing of Intro 1116 law puts in place a plan to add 400 more mobile food vendor permits every year for ten years, starting in 2022. However, a great amount of unmet need will still exist. How to balance these competing needs in the public realm fairly, legally, and openly remain important questions.

︎ A User Experience
︎ B Long-Term Coordination
︎ C Inclusive Design
︎ D Collaboration and Communication
︎ E Support commerce and entrepreneurship

︎ Process / Regulatory Framework
︎ Funding
︎ Technical Assistance
“Bare minimum: don’t forget that street vendors are there and are part of the business economy. Make sure you include them in conversations around public spaces if you're talking to neighboring brick-and-mortar businesses too.”
Shrima Pandey, Jackson Heights resident

HOW TO IMPLEMENT First, the City would need to acknowledge that licensed street vendors are microbusinesses. These entrepreneurs in our public realm activate our streets, sidewalks and plazas—often, for longer hours each day than brick-and-mortar storefronts. With this acknowledgement, key City agencies such as the DOT, the Department of Small Business Services, the Department of Health, and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection would need to partner, perhaps through the Public Realm Working Group (see previous recommendation), to:

︎ Develop a suite of tools and resources to support and manage vendors in the public realm, such as multilingual training sessions and guidelines on where and how to effectively operate in the public realm, including information on alternative available permits and available concessions RFPs for plazas and Open Streets.

︎ Develop a clear map of potential vending areas in commercial districts with special designations, support, and regulation.

︎ Appoint street vendor liaisons (by borough) who would serve as an ombudsman between the previously identified City agencies and local street vendors.

    These resources should be made available on a dedicated “Street Vendor” page on the City’s website (administered in partnership by the Department of Small Business Services, and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection). It should remain the central repository for all updates on regulations and programs impacting our public realm street vendors.

    In the long term, the City should consider allowing CBOs or a consortium of permitted vendors to apply to manage "designated vending zones" that promote new and innovative vending practices.This would support strong vending practices and would protect other public realm interests. The permit should allow for flexible site-planning on sidewalks, streets, and other public spaces to be managed by a community-based organization. Participating street vendors would have access to other permits and thus not be subject to statutory vending caps.

    Care should be taken to formalize the “natural occurring” markets where vendors congregate but don’t have a CBO or plaza management partner, i.e. Corona Plaza, and not relocated to marginal sites. Revenue from vendors,  in the form of market charges, a percentage of sales, or another metric, can be used for market maintenance, cleaning, sanitation removal, commissary space, and other public amenities.

    Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  

    Three men waiting to order at a pink food truck, colored with cartoon illustrations of bacon.
    ︎ FLICKR

    Food Truck Vending Program

    City of Cambridge, MA

    The City of Cambridge Food Truck Program demonstrates an administration’s acknowledgement that street vending is an entrepreneurial opportunity and an additional street-level amenity on Cambridge’s public spaces. The program helps incubate food truck businesses, with a focus on women- and minority-owned businesses and first-time food truck operators, by dedicating specific vending spots across the City at a low cost (typically $30 to 50 per shift of four to six hours) to program participants. This enables street vendors to easily operate in compliance with City regulations (program administrators provide permitting and licensing support) in prime locations (popular street corners, parking spaces near large plazas) that would otherwise be difficult to secure.

    Corona Plaza Project

    City of New York, NY

    The Corona Plaza Project” demonstrated the effectiveness of simply mapping out and designating key spots within a single location for street vendors to be able to operate cohesively with one another. This stakeholder-driven solution was led by street vendor liaisons who communicated directly with the relevant enforcement entities: the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and the local police precinct.

    Children play with blocks on a wooden table at Corona Plaza Queens.
    ︎ Streetlab