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

Then you’d have a lot of the same issues. Cause these vendors would still lack access to certified prep kitchens or the funds to turn their home kitchens into one. There’s a serious lack of affordable prep kitchens in a lot of lower income neighborhoods in NYC. And you’re not right with licensing if you aren’t using one.

So you need to build out low cost, or free prep kitchens or incubators.

You’d still have property owners, stationary businesses and other (usually licensed) vendors forcing them out of the highest traffic, best locations. Unless enforcement swapped to prevent that. Rather than helping to force them out.

There would still be language barriers, and biases to get over. Churro and tamale vendors tend not to get approved, the trendy meatball sub truck from the start up guy does. So you gotta attack that problem.

It’s a hell of a lot more complicated than just licensing. And lot of these problems also impact licensed vendors. Particularly the lack of access and expense of prep and storage facilities. As a result a lot of the permits are actually owned by prep facilities (often really far from where the vendor’s location will be or where they live). And the people running your Halal or hotdog cart are often paying a very high fee to lease the cart on a by day basis. Or is an “independent contractor” working for a cart brand.

It’s a lot like cab medallions before reform.

The bigger issue with Yang’s comment is how it’s framed.

“Under enforcement” is kinda rich given how this goes. That Churro lady people where tweeting at him apparently at one point owed more in fines and court fees than the average New Yorker makes in a year. She was apparently facing up to 10 years in jail if she couldn’t keep up.

And selling churros was the only thing she had. So apparently she’d get arrested, see hundreds spent on food and her cart destroyed. Spend a weekend in jail. Then spend hours on public transit getting home, hours more getting churros from a bakery, and putting shit back together. Then head back to the subway to get to a busy enough station to make enough to cover what just happened.

Then get arrested again.

Doesn’t sound like under enforcement is the issue to a lot of people. In fact the current under enforcement complaints roll out of restricting enforcement to mitigate that absolute shit show.

Even worse to cite it as an example of how we should do more for rent paying businesses. When the local book store goes under nobody goes to debtor’s prison.

Most of the unlicensed vendors in question are single people selling single items. Often out of coolers and granny carts.

Since licensed vendors will often physically harm them, or steal and destroy their shit to keep them out of usual high traffic areas, and their brownness means they’ll get stopped by the cops, they tend to stay mobile.

They work the subway trains, stations and parks. Usually in places where vending is not allowed.

They tend not to post up in a single regular spot. But move through a given area or neighborhood. A lot of them serve minority or immigrant communities in outer boroughs neighborhoods where there aren’t many “approved” spots for a food vendor. Or selling ethnic items unlikely to be served at licensed vendors (or unlikely to get licensed in the first place).

Tamales, soups, grilled corn, sliced fruit, agua fresca and sorrel drinks, baked goods, empanadas or beef patties, dumplings of various kinds, etc. Often stuff that can be made ahead in volume and kept warm or served cold. Some roll with grills though, like the corn guys sometimes do.

So they’re really easy to recognize and usually well known in the areas they work over. Which lets police repeatedly target the same people over and over.

And in practice suspected illegal street vending becomes one more excuse for a stop and frisk. Under Trump, ICE liked to use it to dig into people’s immigration status.


WELL, TECHNICALLY all he said was “You know what I hear …” :roll_eyes:

It sounds more like he’s engaged in the age-old political practice of trying to promise everything to everybody, including constituencies that are locked in zero-sum games against each other

That sounds an awful lot like what those “disruptive” techbros at places like Uber and AirBnB say about their negative effect on the licensed taxi and hotel industry, though.

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Yeah, when I think street vendor [living hand to mouth], techbros is the obvious next step.

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Come on Yang, such thinking isn’t a product of any medium. It’s a product of being a dumbass business bro who thinks he knows everything until the rest of the world points out that he doesn’t. You going to blame all the rest of your bullshit on Twitter now? The USA seriously needs fewer walking egos in politics.




7 figures:, the guy operates more than one stand and if you’ve ever been to Brooklyn and bought ice cream in front of a touristy pizza shop, you’ve almost certainly bought this guy’s ice cream. I’ll add, an ice cream truck ain’t no churro stand or hot dog cart when it comes to money.

This guy ain’t no Churro Lady, but he’s benefitting from lack of enforcement in ways that would make most people that are sympathetic to Churro Lady, immigrants, and the poor, boil with rage. But ya’ll just assume it’s all about the “War on the Poor” because you see a few simple carts here and there and a video with cops hassling one of 'em.

When we see an actual journalist look into how many of these undocumented people are working for themselves (and not being exploited) and what they are making, vs Ice Cream Vendor sitting fat in his Dumbo loft, then get back to me on the credibility of my friend.

A Canadian national company I worked for about 25 years ago let go one of the salespersons from a central Canada office for something… The minimum he would have made was about 140K. The next day he was out in front of the building he used to work in with a BBQ and hotdogs. After a while he claimed he was making at least as much as he had been, but then a good salesman probably would say that :slight_smile: Those hotdog vendors were popular in various Canadian cities for a while(I used to get them in Toronto and Calgary), usually unlicensed IIRC. The fun came gradually to an end because people were always getting burned by the hot BBQ’s (they were usually low end backyard units, and guys were always fighting around them when they were in club districts.)

So what’s the actual solution, because “don’t have vendor licensing or food safety laws” or “Have the rules on the book but selectively enforce them” and “selectively enforce the rules, just do it a different way”, all seem like really bad ideas.

And given the bbs is currently snarking the hell out of “don’t regulate food safety at all” in another context, this whole story seems like there’s just something missing.


I already laid out some of it.

A big part of it is not selectively enforcing the rules on people based on location and race/ethnicity. Cause a nicely branded cart or truck on a Manhattan street corner would tend to get a parking ticket, and their licensing not even checked. While the shopping cart of churros in the Bronx leads to an arrest and a trip to Rikers.

Especially since the enforcement we’re talking about here tends to be police enforcement and not health department enforcement. It does not need to involve thousands of dollars in fines and jail time and our typically adversarial and violent policing. Focusing on it in “certain” neighborhoods as a quality of life problem while other neighborhoods get a pass is a big problem.

In terms of getting these people support, licensed and what have rather than stepping on them goes. We already know pretty much what to do. As it’s been done before. If you’ve ever heard of the Redhook ball fields, pretty famous NYC street food location. A straight tourist destination these days.

All of those vendors were originally unlicensed and unregulated. Food vendors weren’t allowed in that park. But people set up in what was the picnic area where grilling was allowed. Under the guise of basically tailgating. Selling food to the players, families and spectators using the city soccer fields.

The food truck boom triggered some reforms, and with the ball fields becoming a grey market attraction as well as one of the few places all those new food truck could reliably set up. The whole thing was legalized. Some incubator, easy access prep kitchens and coops were started up in Redhook as support. An area where food vendors were allowed was marked off, and the city took active measures to reach out and license people. There were low interest loan programs and reduced police enforcement.

One of those Redhook vendors now runs the burrito stand in Met’s Stadium. The sort of food vendors people are concerned about now are the people who were left out of that or pressed out of those locations. Or people who were quite a bit more desperate than that to begin with, who didn’t even have the means for a panel van or pickup to pull a table and grill out of every weekend.

If the guy has multiple stands and trucks then he’s for damn sure licensed.

The fines he’s talking about are probably parking fines. New York, particularly Manhattan has surprisingly restricted space where it’s legal to operate a food stall. A lot of that is locked by vendors who have been there a long time or the lease companies, and they collude with each other to block new arrivals out.

Those with means for stalls and trucks will often setup where they’re not supposed to be. The punishment for this, is a parking ticket. The punishment for selling churros in Union Station is going to jail and having your shit smashed.

The right location can create enough foot traffic to make the tickets trivial. And so long as you pay them off promptly it never becomes more than that. At most you might be asked to move.

And that is the central dichotomy people are angry about.

It also helps to realize that all of NYC is not the touristy part of Manhattan or the expensive part of Brooklyn with “trendy” pizza places. Probably nobody making 7 figures with a food stand in the South Bronx, a Bed Stuy Project, or Roosevelt Ave in Queens.


Lot of wannabe BB capitalists hawking for the man/license/big brother/whatever…

Just as a funny ha ha, anyone here ever work a food stand, push cart, or anything remotely, where you have to hold your human waste for 10 -14 hours, never have a break, robbed on occasion, hassled by the Po Po, just so you can have a few bucks in your pocket at the end of the day and maybe get a foot hold into a better life???

I’ll wager the answer is NO. Privilege is nice, when you have it.

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You’re not wrong but the bugaboo is those who inevitably will take advantage of that “grey area” to go completely fucking Galt on everyone/everything else, for the obvious advantages. You can damn well be sure, if you don’t have some sort of enforcement, a large percentage of these small businesses won’t be legit in any way (and I’m not talking paperwork or licenses). Can you really argue otherwise, especially in NYC, of all places…?

Economic libertarianism sounds nice but never works all that great, in practice. I can definitely get behind LESS regulation/easier access but yes, some sort of public health enforcement, if nothing else, is a very good idea. That does NOT mean, however, that this enforcement needs to be via “licenses” or other huge barriers to entry; that’s the real problem here, in my opinion. Why not roving health inspectors, for example (far more than are currently used, that is)?

What really bothers me most about this article, however, is that the NYPD is STILL using the same, proven-BS methods (“Broken Windows-style policing”).

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The thinking isn’t a product of the medium. The medium is just the way one communicates one’s simplistic, knee-jerk thoughts, in a way free of nuance and clarity. I actually somewhat like Andrew Yang. I think he really dropped the ball on this though, and I hate to see him acting like a republican and blamestorming. His words are not the fault of the medium, any more than they are of the keyboard.

“Food truck” <> “churro cart”. If you think the majority of small food vendors are making six figures, much less seven, you’re an idiot, plain and simple. Many are lucky to see FOUR.

Nor is Ice Cream Vendor Dude parked in black/brown neighborhoods, you betcha, and as even YOU noted, all he gets is tickets, not his entire livelihood smashed and quite likely jail time.

So yeah…no. Did you completely omit reading the article?

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Thanks, that was very informative!

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My grandfather was a street vendor in NYC (until he died and my father’s family became homeless, but that’s another story), so my sympathies are mainly with the people with the carts; it is (for example) one of the time-honored ways immigrants turn what little savings they might have from their former country into a business that they can live on and maybe grow.

However, the answer to this:

…is that the small B&M stores are often struggling under even more strenuous licensing requirements than the cart vendors, plus they have to deal with landlords who love to wait until someone builds a property’s value by becoming a successful restaurant or shop and then boost the rent out of reach. If you’re selling food for what you need to sell it for in order to make your rent and payroll, and a food cart sets up in front of your shop with fewer requirements and no rent and undercuts you, how is that failure of your model? It is failure of the city to work out the right balance of opportunity for the two different kinds of merchants.

Even if you give EVERYONE tickets (as opposed to destruction of goods and/or jail) and hustle them on, it’s better than the current model.

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That would not (generally) be the sort of thing you see with unlicensed vendors.

Unlicensed vendors tend to be operating on shit like folding tables, or carrying product around. There was a tamale guy who used to sell out of the laundromat on the corner when I lived in Brooklyn. He carried them around in one of those orange beverage dispenser/coolers he’d mounted in a backpack. When we say carts in this context we tend to mean this. Or straight up grocery carts.

Licensed vendors setting up in places that aren’t cleared for vendors is a different issue. Though there are occasionally issues with trucks and carts from Jersey and Long Island that wouldn’t be licensed by/in the city or allowed to operate there setting up. That might be technically unlicensed.

But this is also the sort of thing that’s been shown to not negatively impact the business of stationary businesses. Even having that food truck right in front of you. In fact the presence of street vendors in an area tends to increase foot traffic, which tends to improve overall business for everyone. Especially if a large presence of particularly good vendors, or a particular sort of food cluster in an area. Generating a reputation as a food destination.

NYC is loaded with neighborhoods where that’s the case, and it’s a large part of what happened with Redhook. And not just at the ball fields. A strong, mostly illicit, street food scene is a big part of what made Redhook a cool place to go hang out. You had the grey market ball field thing, but loose enforcement on where licensed vendors could set up attracted a lot of legit food trucks as well. Along with abundant private parking lots where permission could be had.

That was good for all the local restaurants many of which saw big turn arounds in the early 00’s as this all went down. And the whole shebang combined with low rents attracted a lot of newer restaurants and food business down there. Including multiple old school pickle makers who relocated after getting pushed out of Manhattan, some smoked fish operations that might not exist anymore.

It’s pretty common in the outer boroughs for restaurants with parking lots to invite or give permission for food vendors to set up. As it just overall good for things. It was one of the few options for all those new food trucks in the 00’s. Before the city loosened rules about vendors in street parking or added areas to parks and public land.

That’s what the Street Vendor Project is on about in the quote from the post. They’re not just saying that.


If that’s the case then it must not be the B&M shops on the street that are complaining, so the answer to

if your brick & mortar store is threatened by a street vendor, you need a new business model,

is that that is a straw man.

In any event, haven’t the laws about all of this in NYC changed in the last year or two? More/cheaper licenses, no police enforcement?

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A similar thing is happening on Facebook Markeptplace. Home-based selling of goods, often “ethnic”. Which to a white male central-Ontario guy, means Indian dishes, Filipino dried fish, cabbage rolls. Chicharon is super popular for some reason. Cash or eTransfer preferred, and curbside pickup.

I’m tempted, but am not going anywhere until stay-at-home order is lifted. I’m a street food enthusiast; I know the risks.

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