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Mayoral Candidate Scott Stringer Pounces on Yang Following Controversial Tweet About Street Vendors

Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer and State Sen. Jessica Ramos (left to right) at a press conference in support of street vendors at Corona Plaza Monday (Scott Stringer via Twitter)

April 13, 2021 By Allie Griffin

Mayoral candidate Scott Stringer made a trip to Corona Monday in response to a controversial tweet posted by rival Andrew Yang about street vendor enforcement.

Stringer joined State Sen. Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz and progressive activists at Corona Plaza to stand in support of street vendors at a press conference Monday.

The conference was held in response to Yang’s tweet in which he said he hears constant complaints that the city isn’t doing enough to stop unlicensed street vendors.

“You know what I hear over and over again – that NYC is not enforcing rules against unlicensed street vendors,” Yang tweeted Sunday. “I’m for increasing licenses but we should do more for the retailers who are paying rent and trying to survive.”

Yang added that he’d like to bring more unlicensed vendors into the legal market and increase education for non-English-speaking vendors on the laws around street vending in New York City.

Stringer, the city’s comptroller, chastised Yang at the press conference Monday.

“We can’t have a leader who tweets first and thinks second,” he said at the conference — without naming Yang directly.

“Cracking down on street vendors is part of the criminalization of poverty,” Stringer tweeted. “It’s not just a moral failure, it’s a policy decision that would have disastrous consequences for our undocumented neighbors.”

Stringer has been endorsed by both Cruz and Ramos, who are both outspoken advocates of the city’s estimated 200,000 street vendors — the majority of whom are unlicensed, due the city’s longtime cap on the number of licenses it allows.

Cruz said her own mother sold tamales and empanadas during soccer games in a nearby park years ago.

“We’re looking for a mayor that understands that you don’t have to choose between brick-and-mortar and the street vendors — that there is a universe where we can fight for both of them to survive and thrive,” she said.

Ramos delivered a strong message directly to Yang at the conference in Corona Plaza as well.

“I didn’t tweet yesterday because I wasn’t going to let Andrew Yang ruin my Sunday,” she said at the event which was live-streamed. “But I cannot begin to tell you how hurt, how offended I was to read that someone who wants to be our mayor is somehow thinking about throwing honest workers — immigrants, people who pay taxes, people who keep our street vibrant — in jail.”

Ramos has proposed a bill in Albany to decriminalize street vending and completely lift the city’s cap on the number of street vendor licenses. The city imposed a cap on licenses — limited to about 5,000 food vendor licenses and 853 general merchandise vendor licenses — in the 1980s.

The cap has led to the creation of an expensive underground market for the licenses and subjected unlicensed vendors to tickets and costly fines.

Early this year, the City Council voted to pass a bill to gradually increase the number of vendor licenses. Mayor Bill de Blasio has also moved the NYPD away from enforcing street vendor laws.

Stringer said he would “fight like hell” for the street vendors if elected mayor.

“I stand with the hardworking immigrant communities that make our city run because that is what loving New York really means,” he said. “It means seeing street vendors as the backbone of our city — not a nuisance to be swept away.”

Following the criticism, Yang headed to nearby Jackson Heights Tuesday, where he visited several small businesses in the neighborhood. He toured local mom-and-pops, as well as Asian American-owned businesses, with local leaders.

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