The NYPD and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) together doled out 5,197 tickets to vendors last year, with the police department issuing significantly more tickets, despite a de Blasio-era pledge to shift them away from enforcement. After an eight-month delay, the DOHMH will also begin issuing applications for new supervisory licenses for vendors by the end of the month.
It has been more than two years since the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) took over street vendor inspection and enforcement functions previously performed by the NYPD—a policy shift by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to sellers’ longtime complaints about over-policing of their sector, predominately made up of immigrant workers.
However, during Mayor Eric Adams’ first year in office, police were by far the leading enforcement agency against street vendors, according to an analysis of 2022 data by City Limits, which has been tracking the numbers over the last few years.
NYPD issued 3,392 tickets to vendors in 2022, a 53 percent increase over 2019, the last full year the city was actively ticketing vendors before the pandemic disrupted enforcement and before de Blasio’s policy shift took effect in 2021.
Last year, DCWP issued nearly as many tickets to street vendors as the NYPD did in 2019: 1,804 versus 1,812, respectively. The switch to civilian-led oversight hasn’t meant fewer tickets or less enforcement overall, as some vendors and advocates had hoped: Together, the two city agencies doled out 5,197 tickets to vendors last year, 2.8 times more than in 2019.
While the primary responsibility for vendor enforcement falls to DCWP, “the NYPD maintains its authority to enforce all violations and officers use a high level of discretion,” a police spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is more than six months late in assigning the first round of 445 new street vending permits, part of a law passed in 2021 to gradually increase the number of vendors allowed to legally operate in the city, which had been capped for decades.
A DOHMH spokesperson told City Limits the agency will begin issuing applications for new supervisory licenses by the end of the month.
A deeper look at civilian enforcement
When it comes to DCWP enforcement alone, both in 2021 and 2022, the top five zip codes where vendors were inspected most by the agency were those with large immigrant populations. DCWP has said that inspection locations are identified in response to complaints, though the numbers don’t always bear that out. In 2022, for example, the top five zip codes with the most vendor complaints were in Manhattan, while the top zip codes with the most inspections were in Jackson Heights, Sunset Park, Flushing, Corona and Mott Haven, neighborhoods known for their food trucks and carts.
|DCWP Enforcement Totals, 2022|
|Borough||Total Complaints||Total Inspections||Total Tickets|
“An inspection record is logged for each vendor at a location that is inspected, whereas complaints about a single location may cover several vendors,” DCWP’s spokesman Michael Lanza explained. “A single complaint about a location with many vendors results in multiple inspection records, so it does not make sense to compare complaint numbers with inspection numbers.” Lanza added that complaint numbers may include duplicates triggered by complaints filed for the same condition in a short period of time.
Jackson Heights was both the most inspected (1,150) and the most ticketed (198) zip code in the city in 2021 and 2022; it saw 313 complaints last year.
Mohamed Attia, director of the Street Vendor Project, said increased enforcement threatens vendors’ livelihoods, both in the costs of the fines themselves, which can run as much as $1,000, and the disruptions to their workday. “That impacts their lives,” Attia said.
Seven of the 10 zip codes with the most complaints last year are located in Manhattan, which was also home to four of the most-ticketed zip codes; and the rest are zip codes with a majority immigrant population in the outer boroughs, including Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where nearly 60 percent of residents are foreign-born, according to Census data.
Other city agencies, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Parks and Recreation, can also issue tickets to unauthorized vendors. Under city rules, Parks addresses vending both inside and around parks, and their enforcement has dipped since the pandemic (see chart below). DOHMH did not respond to City Limits’ requests for vendor enforcement data, directing inquiries to their Freedom of Information office.
|Tickets Issued by Parks to Street Vendors|
* Parks Mounted unit is a Citywide horse patrol unit, and those summonses were issued at various locations.