Twenty-one years after its creation, the Street Vendor Project on Tuesday night celebrated its anniversary with its first-ever gala to commemorate street vendors and fundraise for its advocacy services.

At the Queens Museum, city vendors gathered to honor the work of the nonprofit that represents them by advocating for changes in city and state policies. Keeping on theme, vendors lined the courtyard behind the museum, handing out churros, halal food, tamales, and more.

Maria Falcon, whose arrest in April thrust the ongoing conflict between the city and its vendors into the public spotlight, was handing out mangoes and churros at the gala Tuesday. She said she was thrilled to be recognizing the work vendors do for the city after receiving so much support in the wake of her arrest.

“I’m thankful we’re being considered and valued for the work that we do,” Falcon told Gothamist in Spanish. “I’m humbly working, I’m not hurting anyone. I’m not doing violence in the train station, I’m not taking up too much space, it’s a small cart I sell out of. I’m grateful for all the people who support me.”

Street vendors congregate outside Queens Museum on Tuesday night.

Street vendors from around the city protested outside of City Hall earlier this year, calling to ban the NYPD from enforcing vending laws. Though the city transferred the primary responsibility of enforcing street vending violations to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, the NYPD maintains enforcement authority. The transfer was intended to result in better treatment, but vendors have said they’re still unnecessarily and unfairly targeted.

“Street vendors are such humble people who really struggle to be able to provide for their families in this climate,” said State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who was honored at the gala for her legislative support behind the vendors’ cause.

“We do feel like we’ve made some incremental changes,” said Ramos, who chairs the Senate’s labor committee. “But really, over the past 10 months, it feels like we’ve taken so many steps back, which is interesting from a pro-business mayor.”

She added, “It really is about respecting them enough to create a vending system that really responds to what it is now.”

Vendors and their advocates said the recent crackdown has contributed to revenue losses, making a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic even harder.

Mohamed Attia, the managing director of the Street Vendor Project, said that when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, vendors were hit particularly hard as streets became desolate and their income became scarce.

“New York City was a ghost town for the street vendor community who rely on foot traffic,” Attia said. “But people were out there, even some days they will go out and lose money and don’t break even.”

Attia said Tuesday’s event was years in the making and a culmination of the work the vendors and organizers have done.

“It means a lot to have our first-ever gala to continue our work and to make sure that we are also raising our own money and not relying on other funding sources,” he added.