Committee on Consumer Affairs Street Vendor Regulations

SUPPORT WITH AMENDMENT

  • The expansion of food vendor permits will enhance New York City’s vibrant street life
  • Intro 1303 establishes a regulatory framework and all street users will benefit from smart, consistent enforcement of vending rules
  • Intros 5114 and 5115 require amendment to ensure pedestrian safety
  • The safety and free movement of pedestrians must always be prioritized, and bike lanes must be kept clear of vending equipment

Thank you for convening this hearing. I am Julia Kite, Policy and Research Manager of Transportation Alternatives. We are a 43-year old non-profit with more than 150,000 activists in our network, dedicated to promote biking, walking, and public transportation as alternatives to cars in New York City. We advocate on behalf of New York City’s pedestrians and cyclists for safer, better, more livable streets. And we consider the sidewalk to be a crucial part of the street, essential not just to pedestrian safety and movement but to the sustenance of a vibrant public life as well.

Pushcarts have been a part of the New York City streetscape for well over a century, and food vendors contribute to our street life while reducing barriers to entry into business. Like everything else, the regulation of street vendors is a balancing act: the right to make a living and the provision of products to a market must also incorporate safety and public space usage considerations. Fortunately, these can all coexist. We believe that with proper regulations, pedestrian level of service can be maintained, properly licensed vendors can thrive, and illegal vendors can be removed from the streets. We can have our hot dogs (or doughnuts, or arepas, or halal chicken, or banh mi) and eat them, too.

Intro 1303: Support

Transportation Alternatives supports the expansion of food vendor permits as stipulated in Intro 1303, as well as the creation of the Office of Street Vendor Enforcement and the establishment of the Street Vendor Advisory Board.

  • All street users will benefit from smarter, more consistent enforcement organized under this office.
  • The new Office will create a regulatory framework to ensure that all operators are following food safety practices and are properly licensed, which protects the public.
  • Enforcement will be focused on areas the Department of Transportation designates as excessively congested, meaning that resources will be targeted to where they are needed most.
  • The required study of the impacts of the increased number of permits, as created in this bill, will allow for evaluation of the changes and accountability for outcomes.

However, we must emphasize that pedestrian accessibility and flow must not be compromised by vendor operations. Level of service for people walking must always be preserved.

  • We suggest that the Department consider borrowing innovations from recent legislation concerning regulation of plazas, most notably Times Square and the creation of different zones for commercial activity and pedestrian movement. In some heavily congested locations, it may be appropriate to install similar zones for vendors.
  • We also urge the expansion of the DOT’s parklet program to include new spaces for food vending. There is demand for both food and new public spaces; expanded parklets would create a place for both.

Intros 5114 and 5115: Support with Amendment

Intros 5114 and 5115 must be amended to avoid creating safety hazards for all street users by preventing food vendor carts and equipment from occupying bike lanes and from obstructing critical view and accessibility at key street locations.

We broadly agree with the stipulations of Intro 5114, but we would like to raise the suggestion that the placement regulations for food carts be brought in line with those relating to newsstands.

  • The DOT requires that newsstands allow a minimum clear path of 9.5 feet in width, and maintain a straight and unobstructed 1.5-foot path between the structure and the curb.1 This is a larger allocation for pedestrian space than Intro 5114 requires, and it means that food carts will not fit onto sidewalks of 12-foot width.
  • -The most congested sidewalks can cope less well with any loss of pedestrian space, and we recommend that this legislation make special exemptions for parts of the Manhattan central business district where the free flow of foot traffic is already limited at rush hours. If pedestrian traffic spills into a roadway it creates dangers for all street users, especially during rush hour.

While Intro 5114 clearly states that pushcarts must be on a particular part of the sidewalk abutting the curb, we would like to emphasize the need to codify that at absolutely no time is it appropriate for a vendor on a sidewalk adjacent to a bike lane to use that bike lane for storage, loading and unloading, or vending.

  • Food vendor equipment is among the obstructions to bike lanes our members have reported.
  • It creates a safety hazard for both cyclists and the vendor, and defeats the purpose of having a bike lane. Our bike lanes are not for parking or commerce - they are travel lanes in constant use and must be treated likewise.

Finally, while we are pleased to see bus stop access preserved in Intro 5115, we have reservations about reducing the distance a vendor must keep from a driveway, crosswalk, or subway entrance from ten feet to five feet.

  • We are concerned that lessening this distance may dangerously obstruct the views that pedestrians and drivers have of each other at crossings. This is especially true if carts have umbrellas or other attachments, and will be more dangerous for children and shorter pedestrians.
  • With ridership of the subway near record levels, we are also concerned about sidewalk congestion at station entrances. Putting carts closer to them will worsen pedestrian traffic flow.
  • The current ten-foot requirement is reasonable and not an impediment to fair business opportunity. Benches and newsracks are not allowed within 15 feet of subway entrances, and benches are not allowed within 10 feet of crosswalks and driveways,2 so it is unreasonable to let pushcarts, with their greater height, sit closer.

Finally, we would like to see distance from bike infrastructure considered with regard to vendor siting. Rules for placement of benches require them to be at least eight feet away from bike racks that are parallel to the curb, and five feet from racks perpendicular to the curb and bike share stations. We believe this is a reasonable regulation for food vendors as well. This preserves access to and from essential parts of the city’s bike infrastructure.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/infrastructure/streetfurniture.shtml#newsstands

2 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/citybench-siting-rules-march2016.pdf

 

Secondary Title
Testimony by Julia Kite, Policy and Research Manager, Transportation Alternatives Wednesday, October 26th, 2016