The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. Thank you to Chair Velázquez and the members of the committee for the opportunity to submit testimony on the important issues surrounding street vending.
For much of New York City’s existence, street vending has been part of the streetscape and the interactions between vendors and brick and mortar have contributed to the fabric that makes New York City dynamic. In recent years, REBNY has been at the forefront in ensuring that the regulatory and enforcement regime in place surrounding vending contributes to the mutual success of both vendors and brick and mortar small businesses.
Following the enactment of Local Law 18 of 2021 (LL18), Reggie Thomas of REBNY was appointed to serve on the Street Vendor Advisory Board (SVAB) that was established as part of LL18. Several of the proposals being discussed today reflect some of the topics that were raised and suggested by the SVAB. REBNY looks forward to continuing the conversations around these proposals as we work to continue to strengthen equity, education, and enforcement around vending.
Arguably the most important aspect of LL18 was the establishment of a process to introduce vending supervisory licenses over a period of ten years – allowing for a new process to be put into place that effectively works to eliminate the underground market of licenses in a timely way while also allowing for the city to stand up the Office of Street Vendor Enforcement. As we are in the initial years of this phase-in, and as New York City continues to adapt to the enforcement needs of today, we strongly encourage the Council to allow for this process to continue to be facilitated before requiring for the phase-in of new licenses to be accelerated or for the existing cap on licenses to be lifted entirely as has been proposed in the past. REBNY is ready to continue to work with this committee to help to find solutions that support the shared goals of property owners, vendors and brick and mortar businesses alike.
BILL: Intro 1060-2023
TITLE: This bill would prohibit general vendors and mobile food vendors from vending in bicycle lanes, and it would prohibit vendor-related activity from occupying bicycle lanes.
SPONSORS: Councilmembers Menin, Velázquez, Brooks-Powers, and Riley.
REBNY supports Intro 1060. REBNY believes that as we work to share the streetscape for all the various uses, and as bicycle lanes become more prevalent as an alternative mode of transportation, it is important that bicycle lanes are kept clear. This clear path is important not only for safety but to ensure that bicycle traffic can flow freely as bikes become a more regular method of transportation for New Yorkers.
REBNY encourages the City Council to consider other rules as well that aim to ensure clear paths for both pedestrian and bicycle traffic, relevant to not just vending, but regarding various other streetscape uses as well.
BILL: Intro 1062-2023
TITLE: This bill would allow mobile food vendors to display or store goods on top of their carts, and it would simplify the display requirements for general vendors. Additionally, this bill would remove bookkeeping requirements for general vendors and mobile food vendors.
SPONSORS: Councilmembers Velázquez and Menin.
REBNY supports Intro 1062 and supported the idea conceptually as part of the SVAB. REBNY believes that if a vendor is abiding by all health, safety, and siting requirements, other practical rules such as signage and where certain items can be stored can be relaxed without any detriment to the overall viability of a streetscape. Practically speaking as well, allowing for such storage to occur may allow for a cleaner and less cluttered environment for the vendor to operate in which in turn may allow for a larger clear path for pedestrians.
BILL: Intro 1188-2023
TITLE: The bill would eliminate the requirement that individual employees of mobile food vending carts or trucks each have a New York State Certificate of Sales Tax Authority.
SPONSORS: Councilmembers Velázquez, Menin, and Riley.
REBNY supports Intro 1188 as it again lessens the burden of bookkeeping and other requirements that could provide a burden and undermine the success of individual vendors.
BILL: Intro 1253-2023
TITLE: This bill would allow vendors to place their pushcarts two feet from the curb unless there is an obstruction in or on the sidewalk, in which case it would allow vendors to place their pushcarts as close as possible to the obstruction. Currently, the law requires pushcarts to abut the curb, endangering the safety of vendors who must exit their carts onto the street, and potentially, into oncoming traffic.
SPONSORS: Councilmembers De La Rosa, Sanchez, Fárias, Krishnan, Hanif, Ayala, Ossé, Cabán, Nurse, Marte, Restler, Gutiérrez, Won, Avilés, Hudson, Louis, and Rivera as well as Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
REBNY does not support Intro 1253 as current drafted. REBNY understands and agrees that it is important to ensure that vendors are operating in a site that is safe and not susceptible to oncoming vehicular traffic. However, the safety and ability for pedestrian traffic to move freely must also be taken into consideration, along with maneuverability for pedestrians around other streetscape uses like benches, bollards, and outdoor dining establishments. Absent these clear path requirements and other siting considerations, REBNY believes that this legislation could lead to additional challenges for our streetscapes. With this said, a compromise that address these concerns does not seem insurmountable and REBNY looks forward to working with the City Council to find solutions that work for all stakeholders.
BILL: Intro 1254-2023
TITLE: This bill would remove all misdemeanor criminal penalties for general vendors and mobile food vendors. Vendors who violate such vending requirements would be subject to an offense and civil penalties.
SPONSORS: Councilmembers Krishnan, Sanchez, Fariás, De La Rosa, Hanif, Ayala, Ossé, Cabán, Nurse, Marte, Restler, Gutiérrez, Won, Avilés, Hudson, Rivera, and Louis, as well as Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
REBNY supports Intro 1254. While REBNY supports the equitable enforcement of vending laws, particularly relevant to siting, issuing criminal penalties for what otherwise is a civil violation establishes an unnecessary severity that could have significant consequences for individual vendors. As part of the SVAB, REBNY signaled support for removing criminal penalties for violations surrounding vending while simultaneously calling for strengthened enforcement to be backed by civil penalties where necessary.
TITLE: This bill would prohibit general vending and mobile food vending on a bridge approach. It would restrict all general vending and mobile food vending on bridges to elevated pedestrian walkways that have at least a sixteen-foot clear pedestrian path. It would prohibit vending within 20 feet of another pushcart operating on a bridge.
SPONSORS: Councilmembers Brewer and Fariás.
REBNY supports this legislation. This legislation appears to address the overcrowding issues on the famous Brooklyn Bridge, particularly on the Manhattan approach, that often can become extremely crowded due to dozens of vendors operating in the path of the thousands of pedestrians who cross or tour the bridge every day. Just like in every other scenario where a clear path should be assured and enforced relevant to where vendors can operate, bridge approaches, particularly highly trafficked bridge approaches like on the Brooklyn Bridge, should be no exception.
The additional parameters established via this legislation will ensure that the bridge is not only safe for pedestrians, but enjoyable while also outlining sensible siting parameters for vendors to follow who seek to operate in these types of highly trafficked areas, so long as they are licensed to do so.
Thank you for the consideration of these points.
Vice President of Government Affairs|
Real Estate Board of New York