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Frustrated street vendors in the Bronx waiting decades for licenses

Bronx vendors say DSNY's frequent enforcement sweeps are threatening their livelihood
Bronx vendors say DSNY's frequent enforcement sweeps are threatening their livelihood 02:28

NEW YORK -- Vendors in the Bronx say the Department of Sanitation's enforcement is crippling their lives.

With frequent enforcement sweeps, one vendor said Monday the city's broken system makes it difficult to survive.

"This supports my family, my rent, my bills," Miguel Varela said.

In the blink of an eye, Varela, a street vendor on Hugh J. Grant Circle in the Parkchester, watched half his business disappear. A video he took shows his merchandise bagged up and confiscated by DSNY last week in yet another enforcement sweep in the borough.

Since Dec. 7, Varela received four $250 tickets from DSNY for selling without a license. It's more money than what he makes in two days sometimes. He said he has been waiting for a license for almost a decade.

"It is difficult and I don't have anything to pay with. I don't have anything to eat because they took the merchandise away, the house rent and everything for us to bear," Varela said in Spanish.

Street vendors in the Bronx said they only operate without licenses because obtaining one is nearly impossible.

"The license is only dreams," said vendor Vincente Veintimilla, who said he has been waiting for a license for seven years.

The Street Vendor Project said more than 10,000 applicants are on the city's waitlist for a license, which has been closed for nearly a decade. Only 853 licenses are available at a time. Vendors say they want to see the system in New York City change and adapt to help those who want to work.

"The system is broken, but we can create a system that works for everyone," City Councilman Oswald Feliz said.

Feliz said vendors offer critical supplies to the community, like fruits and vegetables, that are difficult to find for cheap on Fordham Road. He supports new legislation that could lift the cap on licenses.

"Anyone that wants to give back to our city and community should be provided that opportunity," Feliz said.

The Street Vendor Project said it's time the city recognizes the value street vendors have in lower-income communities.

"Looking at the investment that's going into enforcing these small businesses, rather than investment in providing them access with business licensing. This is really a shift that needs to happen," said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, the deputy director of Street Vendor Project.

Vendors want the city to know they survive off every dollar they make.

"We have to keep fighting, we have to keep working, my friend," said Valera.

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