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City seeks operator to revitalize Corona Plaza concession

The city is looking for a long-term operator to manage the street vendors who work on Corona Plaza. Photo by Michael Dorgan

Feb. 13, 2024 By Bill Parry

The city has launched a search for an operator for the long-term outdoor vendor concession area in Corona Plaza.

The Department of Transportation released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on Monday seeking an entity to manage the 15,000 square-foot plaza to ensure a vibrant, clean and safe concession area in the heart of Corona, that became a political tug-of-war last summer when Mayor Eric Adams ordered nearly 100 street vendors off the plaza because they lacked proper permits.

“When we came into office, we had a clear vision: protect public safety, rebuild our economy and make this city more livable for working-class New Yorkers,” Adams said in a statement Monday. Our long-term vision for Corona Plaza delivers on all fronts and is a vision for all of us — for vendors, for pedestrians, for neighbors and for our city.”

As in other commercial districts, the third-party operator will address safety, sanitation and quality-of-life conditions, while city agencies will monitor and take enforcement actions as necessary to keep Corona Plaza safe and clean. Four months after they were banished from Corona Plaza, a small number of the street vendors were allowed to return in limited numbers in late November.

“The interim plan we implemented late last year set us up for success by addressing the key safety, sanitation and quality of life concerns while ensuring that vending on the plaza could continue. The RFP we’re issuing today will lock that success in for the long run, securing Corona Plaza’s future as a vibrant community and cultural hub for decades to come.”

Photo by Michael Dorgan

Council Member Francisco Moya supported the Mayor’s actions last summer on behalf of local brick and mortar businesses and his Corona constituents, who saw the number of street vendors explode on Corona Plaza during the height of the pandemic.

“I’ve been dedicated to making Corona Plaza a cleaner and safer space for all. From day one, my goal was never to take food off anyone’s table, but to make things right,” Moya said. “Working with Mayor Adams and the administration, we’re finding solutions to benefit both street vendors with permits and the community. Now, we need to ensure rules are being enforced for a clean and neat environment that balances the needs of local businesses, residents and permitted vendors. This is just the start of what needs to be done.”

The Mayor launched the controversial crackdown in late July after the 311 system received 78 complaints related to illegal vending on Corona Plaza in 2023, a nearly five-fold increase from the 17 complaints in the same period in 2022. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards rallied with elected leaders a week later calling on the city to issue more legal permits to street vendors.

Mayor Adams ordered a crackdown on street vending on Corona Plaza after complaints piled up as crowds became too large. Photo by Michael Dorgan

“Corona Plaza embodies the Queens spirit in so many ways, from our borough’s unmatched diversity to our unrivaled work ethic,” Richards said. “Affirming the plaza’s status as a hub of culture and cuisine and empowering the vendors who sell their goods there — many of whom are immigrant women — has been a top priority of my office for well over a year, and today’s issuance of an RFP is the most important victory yet in that critical effort.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards went to bat for the street vendors during a rally with elected leaders a week after the crackdown. Photo by Michael Dorgan

Richards played hardball over the impasse with the Mayor in September when he threatened to withhold his approval of a street de-mapping element that was necessary for the new soccer stadium at Willets Point unless vendors were allowed to return to Corona Plaza.

“Officially beginning this search for a long-term operator brings us one step closer to ensuring our street vendors and community members get to enjoy Corona Plaza in all its glory, and I look forward to continuing to work with our city and community partners to make this a reality.”

The city relented and allowed nearly 100 vendors to return to Corona Plaza on a rotating basis, operating at 14 pop-up tents coordinated by the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) on a short-term basis.

“They brought us in to manage the plaza back in November for four months,” QEDC Executive Director Seth Bornstein said on Monday. “Even with a small number of vendors, we have them organized and we’re working with city agencies to make sure it’s a safe place for the vendors and the public.”

Bornstein said QEDC would file an RFP to become the permanent operator at Corona Plaza.

“We would like to think we’ve done a good job the last few months and we’d like to have that extended into the future,” Bornstein added. “We’re trying to get more food vendors approved so hopefully we’ll have that as the weather improves in time for spring when the crowds return.”

QEDC has worked with the Street Vendor Project to help vendors navigate the city’s approval process.
“Street vendors belong to Corona Plaza. We’re pleased to see the City take affirmative steps toward keeping entrepreneurs active there in the long term,” Street Vendor Project Managing Director Mohamed Attia said. “Today’s news is the first step toward making Queens a more vibrant, livable borough for generations to come.”

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