July 28, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The city has responded to pressure from Councilmember Sandra Ung and local community leaders and cleared several unlicensed vendors from the sidewalks of Main Street in Downtown Flushing.
The enforcement action, conducted Wednesday by Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), the agency that oversees vendor compliance, came a day after Ung, the Flushing Chinese Business Association (FCBA), and Community Board 7 Chair Gene Kelty urged the DCWP to clamp down on the unlicensed street vendors.
The local leaders said that the vendors were causing a health and safety hazard, since their stalls were clogging the sidewalks for residents, shoppers and commuters. They say that illegal street vending has been an ongoing problem for years and that the city has failed to address it and enforce the laws.
The DCWP, aided by the NYPD Wednesday, said that it removed illegal vendors from the sidewalks along Main Street–in the vicinity of 38th Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue–and also confiscated the goods of two unlicensed vendors who have a history of violations. The two vendors, according to the agency, had ignored previous outreach efforts by the DCWP that tried to inform them as to the rules of vending.
Several vendors fled when they saw the inspectors arrive, a DCWP spokesperson said.
Ung praised the DCWP late Wednesday following the crackdown and thanked the agency for heeding their concerns.
“The city has engaged in extensive outreach and education efforts, but unlicensed vending has continually increased, creating not only a quality-of-life issue but also a serious public safety concern,” Ung said.
“The intent was not to punish these vendors, but rather to ensure the sidewalks in Flushing are – and remain – clear and safe for all. I hope this new enforcement strategy acts as a deterrent.”
The DCWP said that it has been enforcing the vending laws despite the criticism and has been active in policing the area.
For instance, over the past 14 months, the DCWP said it has conducted more than 1,100 inspections in Flushing since June 2021, issuing nearly 100 summonses. The department said that of the 720 vendors it has instructed to stop vending or correct violations, 695 of them have complied.
“Vending is a complicated issue that touches all of us—from the vendors themselves to local businesses to residents and visitors,” a spokesperson for the DCWP told the Queens Post.
“Despite all of DCWP’s efforts to encourage compliance in the area, some vendors have repeatedly refused to comply so DCWP needed to escalate its enforcement efforts to ensure compliance and best balance the needs of the community.”
Wednesday’s crackdown follows weeks of appeals from Ung to DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga, asking for her to take a tougher approach with the vendors.
For instance, in April, Ung and Mayuga went on a walking tour of Main Street to discuss the issue and come up with solutions. Then in May, Ung wrote to Mayuga asking the DCWP to undertake a more robust enforcement strategy with the vendors.
On Tuesday, Ung, the FCBA, and CB 7 Chair Kelty, urged the DCWP to implement harder measures with the vendors.
Ung said she understood that the vendors are trying to make ends meet, but their operations are causing serious problems for pedestrians. She said that her office had received numerous complaints from residents, commuters, and the local business community, about the growing number of unlicensed vendors lining the area’s streets.
Peter Tu, Senior Advisor for the FCBA said that the explosion in street vendors on Main Street has had a dramatic and negative impact on the burgeoning commercial area.
“[The vendors generate] large amounts of garbage, creating extreme congestion on our sidewalks and making it difficult for law-abiding small businesses to compete with unlicensed vendors who do not follow health and safety regulations or pay taxes,” Tu said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Kelty said the board has been concerned about the issue for years.
CB7, Kelty said, has worked with lawmakers and the city in the past to help educate the vendors about the legal process of vending on the streets.
“Unfortunately, their operations continue to impact local businesses who pay taxes, salaries and rent, and do not have the same advantages as unlicensed vendors,” Kelty said Tuesday.