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Bill Proposes Expansion Of NYC Food Vendor Permits On City Sidewalks, Restaurant Owners Worry About Impact On Business

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- More food vendors could come to New York City streets if a bill is passed that would help those who haven't been able to get a permit for decades, but restaurant owners worry what that means for their bottom line.

If you walk around the city, you're bound to breathe in what's cooking from a food cart.

The food cart USA Best Halal Food feeds not just the customers, but Bashir Elfiky's family.

"This is important thing for me. I don't have a job, I can't feed my kids," Elfiky told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

Web Extra: Click For A Closer Look At The Bill

He says he has a permit, but hopes City Council approves legislation so others can get one.

The bill would gradually expand the number of food vendor permits on city sidewalks, adding 4,000 over 10 years.

"Finally reform a very outdated system," said Mohamed Attia, director of the Street Vendor Project.

The city capped the number of permits at 3,000 in 1983.

Attia says this created a so-called "underground market" of people working without one or paying someone else to use theirs at an inflated price.

"Those permits now go for up to $25,000, and they pay that cash upfront to somebody who was lucky enough at some point to get a permit from the city and that person pays the city $200," Attia said.

RELATED STORY -- NYC Street Vendors Call For Financial Relief During Pandemic

Councilmember Margaret Chin, the lead sponsor, says this would change that.

"If you have this permit, you have to be physically there to do the ... selling. You cannot rent it to somebody else," she said. "History has shown that a lot of small business started out as vendors, so let's all work together and support them."

But restaurant owners like Sandra Jaquez, who has two Inwood eateries, worries what that will mean for the already struggling industry.

"If you just want something to take out, instead of coming to me, well, let me just go to the corner, they have the same food, it will be probably 30-40% less," Jaquez said. "To pass this bill now, at this particular moment, I just feel it's just gonna hurt us even more."

RELATED STORY -- Times Square Vendors Struggling To Make Ends Meet Without Typical Summer Crowds

The bill calls for a new law enforcement unit specifically to monitor street vendors as well as an advisory board to oversee the changes.

If this is approved, those groups would be put in place before new permits would be issued beginning in 2022. Chin's team says permits would be issued in batches, 400 each year through 2032.

This will go to a committee vote first on Thursday and then to a full council vote. Mayor Bill de Blasio has voiced his support.


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