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Street vendor advocates say enough is enough after woman is arrested in NYC subway station for selling fruit

Street vendors irate after woman is arrested for selling fruit in NYC subway station
Street vendors irate after woman is arrested for selling fruit in NYC subway station 02:34

NEW YORK -- Street vendors are pushing back against the city after another video went viral of police arresting a vendor in Brooklyn.

CBS2's Ali Bauman spoke to the woman arrested, who said she feels she has no choice but to continue breaking the law.

For over a decade, Maria Falcon has been selling fruit from a cart in the Broadway Junction subway station.

She makes about $80 per day.

Just over a week ago, the NYPD took Falcon away in handcuffs and confiscated her things. After patting the 43-year-old down, police gave her a summons for unlicensed general vending.

"I felt very sad and scared," she told Bauman in Spanish. "I have been vending for a long time. I have tried to find other jobs, but I've been turned down because of my age. We're not hurting anybody. We just need a permit to do our work legally."

Video of her arrest has sparked ire. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams tweeted, in part, "We must provide economic opportunities for New Yorkers who are pursuing them, not criminalize or push them into the justice system."

The NYPD said Falcon was issued another summons several weeks prior, and transit officers gave her multiple warnings that public vending is against the law in the transit system.

"There's a reason we have a Department of Health Standards. If people are just selling food without any form of insurance of the quality of their food, someone could get ill from that, so that's why there are rules in the subway system," Mayor Eric Adams said.

Falcon said she does not want to be selling food in the subway, either, but she's not allowed to sell outside, despite claiming to have her mobile food vendor's license.

"Unfortunately, there's a cap on the number of permits available to street vendors in New York that has been in place almost 40 years. So, she's actually not able to legally work as a street vendor. Not just her. There's thousands of people on a waitlist to even try and get access to a permit," said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, the deputy director of the Street Vendor Project.

Kaufman-Gutierrez said there has been some improvement since 2019, when a churro vendor named Elsa was arrested at the same station, prompting similar backlash.

FLASHBACKHundreds Pack Harlem Streets To Protest Arrest Of Subway Food Vendors, Dozens Taken Into Custody

The city plans to issue 400 new permits each year, starting this summer.

"First to those who have been on waitlist, then gradually over the course of the next 10 years, each year, 400 additional licenses," Kaufman-Gutierrez said.

But that may not help Falcon or Elsa.

"She actually cannot even get on the waitlist for a mobile food vendor permit because it has been closed since 2007," Kaufman-Gutierrez said.

Until Falcon and Elsa are able to get those elusive permits, they now stick together as they defiantly continue to sell fruit in the subway.

In a statement, the MTA says it, "appreciates that the NYPD is working across the board to protect subway riders and encourage compliance with all rules of conduct in the system."

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