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City Council member out to stop illegal street vending in Flushing, Queens

New York City Councilmember wants illegal vendors off Flushing streets
New York City Councilmember wants illegal vendors off Flushing streets 02:21

NEW YORK -- A City Council member is petitioning to clear out street vendors from a neighborhood in Queens.

She says where their operation is in Flushing is illegal and it has become a public safety issue.

From bus traffic to foot traffic, Main Street is busy and along bustling sidewalks street vendors sell all sorts of food and goods.

"I love the street vending. It gives that atmosphere to the neighborhood," Whitestone resident Jackie Lorenzo said.

But City Councilwoman Sandra Ung says street vending is not allowed in the area -- license or not.

"This is a no-vending zone. That was the law passed in 2018 by the previous City Council," Ung said.

She started a petition calling on the city to enforce the law and remove unlicensed vendors from the area, citing public safety concerns.

"It is really hard to walk down Main Street Flushing now, so if you're waiting for the bus, you might actually wait on the streets. If you're elderly, it's very hard to walk," Ung said. "There's a lot of counterfeit goods that are being sold right now."

READ MORERally held Thursday for street vendor industry reforms

There was a major development on Friday. Mayor Eric Adams' office announced street vending enforcement will transfer from the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to the Department of Sanitation beginning April 1.

"Street vendors are a vital part of New York City's economic and cultural landscape, but unregulated street vending is a quality-of-life concern that affects the health, safety, accessibility, prosperity, and cleanliness of our streets, sidewalks, and neighborhoods," Adams said. "New York City has the world's greatest Sanitation Department, and there is no challenge too great for 'New York's Strongest.' With DSNY becoming responsible for enforcing regulations around street vending, New Yorkers will enjoy improved quality of life, more accessible and cleaner streets, and a more welcoming city across all five boroughs."

DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch said her department his ready for the task.

"Everywhere I go, community leaders, elected officials, and residents talk to me about unlicensed street vending. This is a problem the men and women of Sanitation are ready to get to work solving. On behalf of our entire department, I want to thank Mayor Adams for the trust he has placed in us," Tisch said.

The Street Vendor Project said it's disappointed in the mayor's plan to shift enforcement to the Department of Sanitation.

"Small businesses run by immigrants, veterans, and low-income New Yorkers are not trash. This significant change in enforcement policy was done without the involvement of the street vending industry," the group said.

Vendors gathered at a rally Thursday, urging the City Council to improve the industry as a whole.

"The first thing we want to ensure is access to license and permits," said Mohammed Attia of the Street Vendor Project.

CBS2 spoke with vendors in Flushing's no-vending zone reacting to the call for enforcement.

"I think it's right because this is really illegal when people aren't paying taxes. I'm just out here today trying to make a few dollars so I can feed my family," one vendor said.

"There's too many vendors here. People with license should work," vendor Steven Weinberg added.

In addition to vendors, CBS2 asked people walking through the neighborhood what they think should be done.

"These people have to make a living," said Marie Laine of Jamaica.

"I think it should be allowed to some extent," added Mike Cheng of Flushing.

With the change in enforcement agencies, Ung said she's optimistic the city is moving toward a permanent solution to the issue.

While enforcement will now be in the hands of the Department of Sanitation, CBS2 was the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection will remain the agency for general vendor licensing. 

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