Residents complain about unlicensed vendors on Kingsbridge Road, cite ‘quality of life’ issues

The illegal vendors in front of Kingsbridge Armory
Photos by Jason Cohen

When Mayor Bill de Blasio axed police enforcement of street vendors in June, many have been popping up throughout the borough, including on Fordham Road and in front of the Kingsbridge Armory.

Director of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce Lisa Sorin told the Bronx Times that street vendors, politicians and the Street Vendor Project want the cap extended on the amount of street vendors permitted. However, she stressed that even if this occurs, there still needs to be some type of oversight.

As indoor dining at restaurants is set to reopen this week, Sorin asked how having illegal vendors up and down streets of the Bronx and other boroughs affects them.

Dan Williams, 64, who has lived at Sedgwick Avenue and Kingsbridge Road for over 17 years, said that illegal vendors have packed the space between Jerome Avenue and Reservoir Place.

Over the past few months, Williams has observed people with grills on the sidewalk and others selling tools, DVDs and clothes.

“This is unhealthy and most likely poses other quality of life issues,” he said. “My once tranquil neighborhood is turning into something akin to something common in Washington Heights and it’s not desirable.”

Williams filed a complaint on Sept. 19 about the issue. He noted that on the weekends, the sidewalks are jammed packed by 11.a.m. and are quite difficult to walk through.

“I have no problem with people making money, but there’s got to be like some order,” he said. “These are things you would see at a flea market.”

Meanwhile, the Street Vendor Project and politicians are advocating for the passage of legislation that would gradually expand the number of permits given to food vendors. A number of new permits, now referred to as supervisory licenses, would be issued in batches each year from now until 2029.

The new supervisory licenses require at least one supervisory licensee to be present at a pushcart at all times. This new requirement will not be applied to existing permits. The bill will also increase the fees for all permits and supervisory licenses.

Importantly, the bill creates a new dedicated vending law enforcement unit, which would exclusively enforce vending laws. It would focus first on those areas of the City with known vending enforcement challenges, and move to all areas as compliance improves. It would also create a street vendor advisory board, which will include vendors, brick and mortar small businesses, representatives from community groups, labor unions, property owners and city agencies, to examine the rules for duplicative, unclear or unnecessary provisions.

According to the Street Vendor Project, there are approximately 20,000 New Yorkers who sell food and merchandise from the streets and sidewalks of NYC. Street vendors are primarily women of color, military veterans, low-wage immigrant workers who come from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and individuals who have reported income losses of 70 to 90 percent.

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