Testimony

The Real Estate Board of New York to The Committee on Consumer Affairs and Worker Protection of the New York City Council Regarding the FY 2023 Preliminary Budget

Ryan Monell

Vice President, Government Affairs

March 14, 2022

Street vending is an important part of the fabric of New York City and has long provided New Yorkers - particularly immigrant New Yorkers - with opportunities to succeed in our economy. Unfortunately, there is widespread agreement from vendors and store owners alike that the existing set of rules and regulations governing street vending are broken and do a disservice to vendors, retailers, and the public alike. For vendors, the current system leads to inconsistent enforcement that makes operating a business incredibly challenging. For storefront owners, it means they have little ability to use the law to protect the area in front of their store from competition from street vendors and keep the area surrounding their property well-maintained.

Last year, the City Council enacted Local Law 18 of 2021, which made several significant changes to the existing system regulating food and general vendors. REBNY supported the Local Law’s creation of the Street Vendor Advisory Board, which is tasked with reviewing existing vending laws and rules to identify where changes are needed. In recent months, the Advisory Board has been active, and it is anticipated
that a report will be issued in the coming weeks with recommendations for additional reforms. REBNY has been grateful for the opportunity to serve as a member of the Advisory Board in the ongoing effort to bring greater opportunity, equity and compliance to the issues surrounding street vending in New York City.

Equally as important, REBNY is pleased that the Local Law also included the establishment of a new Office of Street Vendor Enforcement (OSVE) that will finally ensure a single entity is responsible for and empowered to enforce existing vending laws. To enforce street vending for more than 2,000 general vendor licensees and 5,000 food vendor permitees, as well as at least another 13,000 unlicensed vendors, the Department of Consumer Affairs and Worker Protection, where the OSVE is housed, has estimated that a fully staffed office will require new resources over the next four fiscal years.

As Local Law 18 of 2021 also expanded the availability of food vendor permits by 4,000 in the next 10 years, it is estimated that this will generate $440,000 in new revenue in FY2023. This will increase to approximately $4 million annually once the maximum 4,000 supervisory licenses are issued. Ultimately, this funding could and should be utilized to ensure compliance and enforcement through the OSVE. In the Fiscal 2023 Preliminary Plan, DCWP headcount reflects an increase in headcount of 40 new general vendor enforcement staff, but a lack of detail remains regarding how DCWP will facilitate a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the OSVE is up and operational prior to the issuance of additional new permits.

We encourage the Council to work closely with the administration and DCWP to ensure that the resources allocated are indeed effective in ensuring consistent and stringent compliance as it pertains to vending across all five boroughs. This is particularly important as additional permits will begin to be issued as early as June of this year. Without proper education and enforcement, REBNY remains concerned that the problems that have plagued the vending community for decades will only be exacerbated, with an uneven recovery for both vendors and brick and mortar businesses alike who are continuing to work to overcome the economic downturn brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.