Bronx residents and local politicians are rallying behind a longtime street vendor in the borough after city officials shut down her produce stand as part of its ongoing crackdown on unlicensed vendors.
Veteran street vendor Diana Hernandez Cruz says she was working at her five-year-old Bronx produce stand on September 23 when representatives with the New York Police Department and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection approached her to ask for her vending permit. When she failed to produce one, she was told that her food would be thrown out, according to CBS New York.
In a video of the incident shared by local non-profit the Street Vendor Project, city workers can be seen throwing crates of what appears to be fresh fruit and vegetables into a garbage truck. Onlookers gathered around Hernandez Cruz can be heard shouting profanities at the workers and recording the incident on their cell phones.
“I have been working here for five years in the heat, in the snow, to support my children,” Hernandez Cruz, a mother of four, said in a translated statement. “I was very indignant the day that the Department of Sanitation threw out palettes of fruits and vegetables from my stand, it was very unfair… I told them not to throw the food away, but they did it anyways.”
City officials are required by law to make every effort to reuse confiscated food, however doing so requires sign-off from the health department, according to CBS New York. The Department of Health was not contacted prior to the produce being thrown away, officials confirmed to the media outlet.
Local politicians and Bronx residents gathered at the site of the incident on September 26 to protest in support of Hernandez Cruz and call for change to how the city’s street vending program is enforced. “What happened on Thursday is an example of city failure on several levels,” Mohamed Attia, the director of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, said in a statement. “The city has failed street vendors for decades and is still failing them till this moment.”
The incident is the latest in a series of citywide crackdowns on unlicensed street vendors, who say they continue to operate illegally due to cost and difficulty of obtaining a permit. There are a little over 5,000 total permits for food vendors, and the wait-list for each type of license has thousands of names, according to a representative with the Street Vendor Project. Hernandez Cruz tried to apply for one, but was denied.
Earlier this year, the City Council voted to expand the number of street vending permits by 400 each year for the next 10 years. The bill also moved street vendor enforcement out from under the NYPD’s purview and called for the creation of a specific vendor enforcement unit trained in vending laws, which was scheduled to be up and running by September. Eater has reached out to the Street Vendor Project for more information.