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Illegal Street Vendors Are Taking Over New York City Streets

(Noted News) — Replacing the once thriving businesses in New York are endless blocks of illegal street vendors, peddling everything from fake Louis Vuitton, to baseball hats, to live crabs. 

The New York Post reported multiple hot spots for the vendors, including 149th Street and Fordham Road in the Bronx, Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, and Main Street in Flushing, Queens.

The massive crowds of illegal street hustlers are not only cluttering up the sidewalks but causing controversy and resentment amongst the small businesses who are paying high rents, high taxes, and have been forced to shut down for the better part of a year. Mayor Bill De Blasio is facing heat from local city officials who blame him for allowing it all to happen. 

DianSong Yu from the Flushing Business Improvement District, who estimates at least 90% of the vendors were probably unlicensed, said:

“It’s a very tough time for everybody, we get it. But we need to be fair to the local merchants who are paying very high rent and taxes. And they’re hurting.”

According to the Post, most of the vendors either don’t speak English or refuse to speak to journalists. They also spoke to a veteran named Bobby who was furious about the vendors. 

“They’re robbing the city of taxes. They’re taking money from the veterans. They’re taking jobs.” 

The Department of Consumer Affairs issues licenses for general vendors for a fee of $100-200 and has a limit of 853 for non-veteran licenses.

The city Health Department in Queens doesn’t allow mobile vendors to sell raw-seafood, but there is zero enforcement. Therefore, certain hotspots like Sandford and Main are filled with live blue crabs, most likely illegally caught in the nearby waters.

The Post spoke to a man who said his wife had bought some crabs from one of the illegal vendors. “She figured what could go wrong…well, plenty,” he said. 

The man’s wife began to feel sick after eating the crabs, prompting him to inspect the remaining crabs. Upon inspection the man found white worms in the bellies. The Health Department claims to be investigating this incident, according to a spokesman. 

Lack of enforcement or regulation on the illegal vendors can be traced to a decision by the mayor in June to withdraw funding from the NYPD. 

The mayor, born Warren Wilhelm but changed his name twice to eventually become Bill De Blasio, colloquially announced earlier this year that he wanted to shift funding from the NYPD to focus on youth services

“Policing matters for sure, but the investments in our youth are foundational. We will be moving funding from the NYPD to youth initiatives and social services…I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people…And I also will affirm while doing that, we will only do it in a way that we are certain continues to ensure that this city will be safe.”

The defunding of the police was reportedly lobbied by activists and city council members motivated by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis to broadly change the entire law enforcement system in a way that better caters to communities of color.

De Blasio’s move was met with conflicting reactions at the time. Council Speaker Cory Johnson applauded the mayor, but governor Cuomo vocally criticized it.

“I am happy that the mayor had been listening to the council’s calls to make substantial cuts to the NYPD and reinvest that money in communities of color and our young New Yorkers,” Johnson (D-Manhattan) said.

Governor Cuomo said,

“You have New York City that is still reeling from the COVID virus, and now you have this night of looting that I’m telling you shook people in the city to the core…You don’t need police? You don’t need police? That’s what happens when you don’t have effective policing.”

City Councilman Peter Koo, who introduced a bill that bans all street vending on Main Street, said the whole thing was “a circus” that “falls squarely on the mayor.”

At the time of the announcement, De Blasio said that the role of enforcing street vendors would be transferred to an unknown civilian task force. It appears the said civilian task force will be Consumer Affairs, who will formally take control of enforcement on January 15, 2020. 

Mayor De Blasio will be unable to run for a third term in New York’s 2021 mayoral election because of term limits. 

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