Churro vendor video resurfaces, and Andrew Yang now regrets complaining about NYC's unlicensed street vendors

Originally published at: Churro vendor video resurfaces, and Andrew Yang now regrets complaining about NYC's unlicensed street vendors | Boing Boing


Later on Monday, Yang apologized for his comment, telling reporters at an event in Brooklyn that “I regret that I took on such a frankly complicated and nuanced issue” on Twitter, adding that such thinking was “a product of that medium.”

Twitter has developed mind-control technology?

Let’s be clear, if Yang showed his ass by rushing to judgement without sufficient knowledge or context, then own it. We’ve all done that. It might not be great policy, but it’s certainly human. But don’t try to weasel out of it by blaming the position you staked out on the platform where you typed it.


Could someone please unpack Yang’s comment some? As a non-New Yorker, I’m having trouble understanding how it is anti street vendor. I read the “increasing licenses” as making more available or easier to get. So obviously I’m missing something there. And wanting to help retailers who struggling to survive while paying rent during covid seem innocuous. Unless it’s code for something else.

Just asking for some more context or explanation so I can understand.


You know what I hear over and over again – that NYC is not enforcing rules against unlicensed street vendors.

I just assume that any unsourced generalized attributions like that were made by the Former Guy.


I’m not a New Yorker, but my read is this: Andrew Yang’s tweet conceptually pits supposedly unlicensed street vendors against small businesses who pay into the rentier capitalist system. Yang seems more sincere than the average politician, so IMHO I believe him that he regrets falling for a divide and conquer narrative. But I’m distinctly unimpressed that he tried to blame the medium where he publicly fell for it.


Making licenses easier to get is the right way to help people like the churro vendor in the video. Abandoning the enforcement of food-vendor regulation would harm many people including in particular the food vendors who go to the trouble and expense of following food-safety regulations.


Step on the little guy, so the BIG GUY gets more money? Math on that just doesn’t factor, if your brick & mortar store is threatened by a street vendor, you need a new business model, leave the street vendors be.

P.S. Andrew Yang is another rich dude running for public office, no thank you.


It’s always code for something else. For the left, licenses are a means of oppressing the poor, because unregulated food sales are not like a public health hazard or anything like that. For the right, licenses are oppressing the unqualified, because the free market demands that anyone should be able to claim they’re a doctor or a plumber or whatever.

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Licenses are hard to come by and extremely expensive.

The majority of unlicensed vendors are immigrants or minorities and women living below the poverty line. They’re largely excluded from the licensing process. Either by costs and bias in the process. Or thing like language barriers, access, undocumented status.

The enforcement model used is part of the old fashioned broken windows policy in NYC. Heavily policing minor “quality of life” crimes on the assumption it will reduce overall crime rates. The violation involves heavy fines, seizing product and equipment, and jail time.

So you’re taking desperate people and laying a huge financial burden on them, for doing what they have to. While excluding them from the opportunity to do it legally.

The justification for doing this is claims that street vendors in general, but particularly the unlicensed ones or certain kinds of vendors, lower property values. Damage stationary businesses, with a careful mention that those businesses pay rent and taxes. And that street vendors are unappealing, seedy, or bring crime.

Yang basically ran with that stock take.


That makes some sense, especially with the first line about hearing about under enforcement. I just had expected there to be more to it.

Doesn’t bode well for him. If something like this can put him on a back foot, NY is not going to be kind to him.


It’s been a pretty visible economic justice issue in NYC for a number of years now. The Churro Lady in particular being something of a mascot for the problem. But it’s been a pretty big problem in a lot of places for a long time. About a decade back a lot California cities, particularly LA, had big problems on this front.

Yang’s tweet is straight up Guiliani/Bloomberg grade clueless and business first on the subject.

On top that apparently Yang and his family relocated out of Manhattan to a expensive second home upstate at the start of the Covid outbreak. And supposedly only came back for the primary run.

That’s a huge thing state wide, lots and lots of wealthy city residents off booted to suburbs and summer communities. Some of them perminantly. To avoid restrictions, or skip out on resource shortages while the city’s poorer residents fucking died. Helping to spread the initial outbreak around the Metro Area.

That’s an incredibly contentious subject right now. Especially in the outer boroughs.

It all reads as a Manhattan only, New York for the rich politics that’s disturbingly familiar to many New Yorkers.

I honestly think he might cooked already. It completely undermines the progressive idea man image he presented in his presidential campaign. And it’s basically the exact opposite of the push in the NYC democratic party right now.




I don’t understand the mindset: everything must be made legible to power that seems so prominent among neoliberals and neoconservatives. Sure, you can pour energy into making any system legible, but in doing so you distort it and inevitably wind up cutting some of its connections to neighboring systems that otherwise gave it vitality (see German “scientific forest management” circa 1850). You have to leave a zone for emergent grey market complexity to get any gnarly resilient systems.

Licenses are hard to come by and extremely expensive.

Okay, so what if they weren’t? What if the city made them literally free for vendors who go through a basic registration and training process? Make it available in a few languages based on demographics. Etc.

The state has an interest in ensuring that food vendors follow minimal hygiene standards, and in keeping records of street vendors. If somebody has a history of selling food that makes people sick, then maybe they shouldn’t be doing that. Similarly, keeping records of street vendors allows the city to allocate resources, such as trash collection, to promote their efforts.

Many / most of the people who make a living as a street food vendor would otherwise be on public assistance. The city has a strong motivation in enabling them to make a living. Why not make licensing free?

If such a program were available, this lady woudn’t have her cart confiscated - she could have been given some information about vendor licensing, and a time period to comply, like 30 days. If she doesn’t, fine, then take away her cart - and give it back to her once she completes the licensing process.


This “War on the Poor” is a joke when it comes to NYC street vendors. Since when is making 7+ figures “poor”?

My source is a friend that’s been pursuing this issue for years and finally had a frank talk with an ice cream vendor that regularly sets up directly in front of a popular pizza establishment (the popular sort with lines that may go down a block.) The vendor laughs off the fines an any attempt to enforce it because he’s making too much money to worry about the hassle. The couple times he’s been forced to move, he just goes to another popular joint and does the same thing. Complaints from restaurant owners are common, but enforcement is very rare, and the fines are laughable.

“War on the Poor” is just a narrative and is a broad description without any data to back it up. Yang should double down, get the hard data the journalists are ignoring, and blow this mother up.

I’m not a New Yorker either, but food vendor licensing falls at the intersection of race, class, food, and state power. It is a fundamentally loaded topic. The nature of public vending means that a largely lower income group of people often face tougher enforcement than their fixed location peers. Yang’s framing of the issue as street vendors vs. shop keepers takes an emotionally loaded question with all kinds of shades of nuance and jumps up and down on those lines.

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Yeah it doesn’t sound like the kind of complaint normal human beings would make. How often does anyone outside of municipal government check to see which street vendors are fully licensed anyway? When most people see a churro cart their first reaction is “Hell yeah, churros!”


If he keeps hearing it again and again, is it from a bunch of people, and just this one guy who keeps going on about it?

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Pffffffffft. 7 figure street vendor? You realize that means millions of dollars right? Sorry, never mind my sarcasm because you have an extremely reputable very real friend who talked to some guy and they had a very “honest” conversation. I’m glad someone finally got the real scoop on street vendors.


Did you forget the /s? Seriously? Double down? You’re entire case is built upon one vendor and a friends convo? :roll_eyes: that’s not “data” either, but I’m sure street venders all make millions.