On Wednesday, November 18, the NYC Veterans Alliance Street Vendor Committee, in partnership with Veterans 4 Veterans NYC, Inc., met with Council Member Eric Ulrich, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Veterans, to discuss needed reforms for NYC’s veteran street vendors. CM Ulrich was receptive and empathetic to the concerns and recommendations of the group, which included five seasoned veteran street vendors who represented a range of experience with vending food and merchandise using the city’s variety of permits available to veteran vendors. The meeting explored several potential legislative remedies to the current problems encountered by veteran vendors.
“This meeting is an important step toward achieving long-awaited reforms for our veteran street vendor community,” said Kristen Rouse, Founding Director of the NYC Veterans Alliance, who arranged the meeting.
Veteran street vendors have been the heart and soul of NYC’s veteran entrepreneur community going back to 1894, when New York State established a law that assured disabled Civil War veterans free and unrestricted access to selling goods on the street. Today NYC has more than 1,700 veteran street vendors, yet city policies, restrictions, and enforcement have been cumbersome and limiting to the ability of veteran vendors to make a living as intended by the 1894 law. To address current problems and restrictions, Veterans 4 Veterans NYC has compiled vital information and statistics, as well as collecting some 300 signatures of NYC voters in support of key reforms. Veterans 4 Veterans partnered with the NYC Veterans Alliance Street Vendor Committee to conduct a survey of veteran vendors and make the following recommendations to NYC officials:
Current restrictions on veteran street vendors must be reviewed and revised to meet the original intent of New York’s 1894 promise to allow disabled veterans free and open access to earning a living by vending on the street, and veteran vendors should be engaged in any revision or change to the laws.
A vending board that includes both disabled and non-disabled veterans should be established to ensure that veteran concerns are appropriately raised and addressed by city officials.
Veterans must be prioritized, expedited, or otherwise granted exemptions from the long waiting lists for vending permits.
Veterans must be granted preference for Priority and Colored (White, Yellow, Blue) licenses, both in issuing and enforcement on the street.
Rules for ticketing, permissible distances from doorways, and other restrictions must be reviewed and revised in favor of increased access for veterans.
Law enforcement officials must be made aware of exemptions and preferences for veteran street vendors, and veterans must be protected from difficulties and disputes with law enforcement.
Mobile food vending permits (“V” permits) for veterans must be granted citywide access, as well as include food trucks.
Outreach to veteran street vendors should be made by city programs and resources for entrepreneurs and business owners.
Dondi McKellar, disabled veteran street vendor for 11 years and member of the Street Vendor Project, Veterans 4 Veterans NYC, and the NYC Veteran Alliance said: “I appreciate Councilman Ulrich giving his time to hear our concerns and discuss solutions with us. We look forward to working with him in the future. The street vending veteran community is well served by having Councilman Ulrich and thankful for his service to the city.”
Bernard Wright, a disabled veteran food-processing cart owner for 8 years and member of the NYC Veterans Alliance, says: “On behalf of veterans who possess Yellow licenses, we appreciate all that the Councilman is doing to assist us in sorting through how disabled veterans are classified for different licenses.”
The group plans further outreach to city officials and advocacy on these vital reforms.
For more information, see the following documents:
Veterans 4 Veterans NYC briefing packet, authored by LaTasha Peeler, Dondi McKellar, Howard Dalton, and Boots Whitlock:
NYC Veterans Alliance Street Vendor Committee Brief:
Results of the survey conducted by the NYC Veterans Alliance Street Vendor Committee and Veterans 4 Veterans NYC, prepared by NYC Veterans Alliance member Molly Pearl: