Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Nutty Vendor Laws Need Reform

Remember the nut vendor who had his cart confiscated because he left it unattended-amidst an expected hue and cry from vendor advocates? Well, the poor vendor couldn't come clean, literally.

As the NY Post reported: "He should have washed up after his bathroom break. Shiraj Islam, the food peddler who had his permit stripped by health inspectors because he took a 30-minute bathroom break, yesterday was given the chance to get his cart back before the end of his 10-day suspension. Unfortunately, he blew it. "He failed because the equipment was dirty, not completely functioning and did not have all the proper equipment," said Dan Kass, acting deputy health commissioner. "This gives us a lack of confidence his cart is being operated safely and hygienically." Islam, 42, said he was disappointed, but weather permitting will try again today."

How about that! As we have been arguing to we're blue in the face, these food vendors-and we're particularly vexed by the fruit and veggie peddlers operating right in front of city supermarkets-are not subject to the same health and safety rules as those that are applied so vigorously to NYC food retailers. The vendors, then, are a health hazard-as well as a threat to the viability of local food stores and their workers.

What we need is a comprehensive reform plan-and let's not forget that the vendor proliferation is also a threat to neighborhood quality of life. Council member Dan Garodnick is taking the lead on this issue, but he needs an active and aroused opposition in order to counteract the activism from the "vendor community."

Retailers are taking a huge beating from the economic downturn-and these are the business owners who are the tax base of the city, and the neighborhoods that they service. We can no longer have the luxury of allowing our streets to be flooded by street peddlers who siphon off sales from the legitimate store owners-while at the same time harming the communities that they flood with street and sidewalk obstruction.

Speaker Quinn has made the helping of small business a signature issue. She can greatly advance that cause by promoting vendor reforms; and thus becoming a vocal advocate for safer streets. enhanced tax collection, and fair competition.