The City Council is considering legislation that would expand the restricted vending area around the World Trade Center site, displacing 22 street vendors who say the proposal is racially motivated. City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who sponsored the bill, insists she supports street vendors, but that the bill is about public safety—the NYPD maintains that street vendor carts could conceal explosives and often contain flammable gases. At a hearing last week, Oleg Chernyavsky, the NYPD's director of legislative affairs, asserted that a proliferation of food vendors "can soften an officer's vigilance when similar looking equipment being used to hide explosives is placed near the vendors who legitimately ply their trade," Patch reports.
The Street Vendors Project, an advocacy group which has 1,800 vendor members, has taken issue with this claim.
The #NYPD testified yesterday that the presence of vendors could “soften an officer's vigilance” near the security checkpoints. Really? We give #NYPD anti-terrorism officers much more credit than that
— StreetVendorProject (@VendorPower) June 16, 2018
27 street vendors gave testimony at last Thursday's hearing. Mohamed Attia, a former vendor and the co-director of the Street Vendor Project, said that these vendors do not pose a threat, and are helpful to the NYPD. "One of them reported a guy carrying a gun, another one stopped a drunk driver, another one reported suspicious packages many times that luckily turned out to be nothing."
18 of the 22 vendors affected by this bill are Muslim, and Attia believes that the bill is rooted in "obvious Islamophobia," according to the Daily News. A weekly World Trade Center farmer's market is able to operate within the no vending zone. "When you see that the city welcomes all the wholesome white farmers into this restricted zone that says to us very clearly, that this is about race, not safety,” Sean Basinski, co-director of the Street Vendor's Project, told Eater.
While in theory, the vendors could move outside of the restricted zone, Basinski believes it could be disastrous for their business. “That block is restricted or that block has a bus stop, which means you cannot vend there, or somebody else is vending there, or if you get far enough away, there’s just no people," Basinski told Gothamist. "Let’s face it, most of these vendors are selling to tourists who are going to the World Trade Center, its one of the biggest tourists sites in the city now… if they get pushed a block or two out, that’s going to affect their business dramatically.”
The Street Vendor Project plans to rally against the bill this week, handing out flyers to regular customers at coffee and bagel carts in the area and and asking them for support.