FAQ

What is the goal of the “Lift the Caps!” campaign?

When was a cap placed on permits and licenses?

What is the current cap placed on licenses and permits?

How does the current cap on licenses and permits impact the street vendor community?

How long is the waiting list to get a permit?

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses affect big businesses?

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses affect license-holding street vendors?

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses affect the permit black market?

Will lifting the cap on permits and licenses increase competition amongst street vendors?

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses reduce sidewalk crowding?


What is the goal of the “Lift the Caps!” campaign?
We want to submit a proposal to City Council to increase the food and merchandise vending licenses and permits issued in New York City. We also hope to open more space for vendors to work in the streets.

When was a cap placed on permits and licenses?
At the urging of merchant associations and chambers of commerce, in 1979 and 1983 the City Council put limits, for the first time in New York City history, on the number of vending licenses and permits issued.

What is the current cap placed on licenses and permits?
Food vending permits were reduced drastically, from almost 12,000 to only 3,000 – despite the fact that an estimated 25,000 pushcarts once roamed our city’s streets. Merchandise licenses were arbitrarily capped at 853 – despite the fact that other large cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. do not have license ceilings.

How does the current cap on licenses and permits impact the street vendor community?
The vending community, which has always been made up primarily of recent immigrants and people of color, did not have enough political influence to oppose the caps placed on licenses and permits.

How long is the waiting list to get a permit?
These arbitrary caps on permits have created such a long waiting list that the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has not taken new names since 1991.

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses affect big businesses?
While the big businesses that fought for the ban sought to reduce competition from vendors, many studies have since shown that vendors actually help the stores by drawing shoppers to commercial districts.

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses affect license-holding street vendors?
License-holding vendors who are employed by permit-holding cart owners will get a chance to obtain a permit of their own if they wish to be self-employed.

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses affect the permit black market?
The current fees for permits in New York City are $200 for a processing food unit and $75 for a non-processing food unit. However, due to the current cap on permits, a black market has been created wherein permits are sold for upwards of $25,000. Lifting the cap on permits will therefore increase the accessibility of permits, thereby eliminating the need to sell permits in the black market.

Will lifting the cap on permits and licenses increase competition amongst street vendors?
Our campaign directly addresses the issue of space allocated to street vendors. With the current cap on licenses and permits, an attack on public spaces took place where private corporations took designated streets away from street vendors. Lifting the cap on permits and licenses will therefore allow street vendors to take back the streets, thereby allowing more spaces for street vendors to vend. More specifically, our campaign demands that city expand designated areas for street vendors (proposal #3) and decrease the space limitations of where street vendors can position their carts (proposal #4, #6, #7, #8). These proposals will allow more street vendors to vend in more areas throughout New York City.

How will lifting the cap on permits and licenses reduce sidewalk crowding?
Rather than easing sidewalk crowding, the current cap creates congestion by inviting a proliferation of unlicensed vendors. With no incentive to obey the numerous time, place and manner regulations the city places on license-holders, unlicensed vendors tend to congregate in the most congested areas of the city, where they can sell their wares quickly while evading arrest.