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Corona Street Vendors Hit With Summonses During Pandemic, Sparks Outrage from Activists

NYPD officers issued summons to three street vendors on Monday (Street Vendor Project)

May 20, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Three immigrant street vendors were issued summonses by the NYPD for selling tamales and flowers on Monday — sparking outrage from activists and elected officials over the enforcement during a pandemic that has burdened the immigrant community.

The vendors were ticketed for selling tamales and flowers inside Corona Plaza without vendor licenses.

New York City has not made new general vendor licenses available since 1979, according to the Street Vendor Project.

The organization blasted Monday’s summons as a “disgrace” and is calling on the mayor and NYPD to immediately suspend enforcement of street vendors during the coronavirus health crisis.

“Street vendors are parents, caretakers, and community leaders who have been disproportionately impacted by both the health and economic crises throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mohamed Attia, Executive Director of the Street Vendor Project.

“New York should be leading the way in demonstrating how a sanctuary city protects its immigrant residents and businesses during a crisis, not ticketing and levying fines on the most marginalized,” Attia said.

One undocumented vendor selling flowers at Corona Plaza said they must work to feed their family.

“None of us have received any [government] aid,” the vendor said. “I have to work – how am I going to tell my son there’s no food for him tonight?”

Many undocumented immigrant vendors must continue to work during the pandemic because they do not qualify for federal aid such as the CARES Act stimulus checks.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio has partnered with the organization Open Society Foundations to provide $20 million in one time relief payments to 20,000 undocumented immigrants, critics say it falls critically short.

The payments would reach less than 5 percent of city’s estimated 477,000 undocumented immigrants.

The one-time payments are also significantly less than the $1,200 plus checks most U.S. citizens and green card holders received. Single adults get $400, couples or a single parent get $800 and a family with multiple adults and children get $1,000 under the city’s initiative.

Several city and state officials have called on the mayor to suspend enforcement of vendor regulations during the pandemic, unless a vendor constitutes a significant risk to public health.

The summons and fines add extra burdens to struggling immigrants, they say.

Local elected officials decried Monday’s summons.

“Criminalizing defenseless immigrants for selling tamales and flowers when there is actual crime at bay is not right,” State Sen. Jessica Ramos said in a statement. “Our street vendors have no financial means to support themselves in this crisis and they did not pose any threat to our community.”

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz said her office has mediated similar concerns between the local precinct and streets vendors in the past and is working with all parties to understand what led to the latest incident on Monday.

“Our street vendors are woven into the fiber of our community,” Cruz said. “Because of status and the nature of their work, many, if not most have been left out of the bail outs and other financial support during this pandemic.”

“If these folks are not allowed to work, they cannot eat, they cannot pay rent, simply, they cannot survive,” she added.

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