$20,000 for a Permit? New York May Finally Offer Vendors Some Relief

Mr. Attia, who started selling hot dogs soon after he arrived in New York in 2008, knows the risks he and other vendors face on the street when selling without permits: $1,000 summonses and confiscated goods. But, he said, they make up an economic ecosystem in their communities and beyond: According to data compiled by his group, street vendors in 2015 added nearly $300 million to the city’s economy, created some 18,000 jobs and paid $71 million in sales and income taxes.

Yet business associations, including the Real Estate Board of New York, and their lobbyists have raised concerns that a flood of vendors will lure away customers from brick-and-mortar stores, and they are skeptical about the city’s ability to establish a new enforcement office during a fiscal crisis.

REBNY declined an interview request, but James Whelan, the group’s president, said that while its members “recognize the need to expand opportunities for vendors and address the serious challenges they face,” they are worried about enforcement and adverse effects on already-weakened traditional businesses.

Supporters of the legislation said those concerns overlook that most the permits will go to people already vending, and only after the enforcement system is established. Restaurant and bar owners, Mr. Attia said, should be more concerned about commercial rent bankrupting their businesses.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance estimated that thousands of the city’s 25,000 bars and restaurants had been hard hit by the virus and shutdown, with some 140,000 people left unemployed. In the last month alone, the group noted, 11,000 more jobs were lost.

“We’ve seen reports that the vast majority of restaurants have been unable to pay their rents,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the Hospitality Alliance. “We need to get through this crisis, then there can be a more comprehensive review of where vending could be done.”

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