Quality of Life: Street Vending

Low-scale street vending - think small businesses and entrepreneurs like hot-dog vendors, mango sellers, and stoop sales - are an essential part of safe, vibrant urban public space. On the other hand, bootleg merchandise, unlicensed vendors, and "loosie" cigarettes, not to mention open air drug sales, are a major quality-of-life problem. A charge we see frequently here in the Bronx is unlicensed vending or a tax code violation for selling cigarettes or other bootleg merchandise.

The issue presents a dilemma for government. Whenever the authorities seek to regulate and control informal urban behavior (including things like subway harassment), the risk exists that legal (even beneficial) behavior can also be restricted. I covered some recent developments here in New York City regarding vending, greenmarkets, and other related issues here.
The food vendors at soccer games in Red Hook Park (above) have been a neighborhood institution for decades, famous for selling tacos, huaraches and pupusas, but their future is apparently in doubt. An agreement described as a victory for the vendors was recently announced, guarantying their right to continue vending at the games, although the fine print seems a little more complicated.

Update 07/31/2008: Here's an article in the current issue of the Norwood News that details issues facing street vendors, both licensed and unlicensed, in the Bronx.