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New York Street Vendors Battle Over Permits

Black Market Vending in New York City
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There are some 20,000 street vendors in New York City, and 90 percent of them are immigrants. Black market operations are the norm because there are too few permits to satisfy the marketplace.

New York Street Vendors Battle Over Permits
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A conflict is forming on the streets of New York City between legal and illegal food trucks and carts.

The city grants 5,100 food vending permits every two years. The permit is issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Most of the permit holders pay $200 to renew their permit every two years.

Some permit holders rent their license, or permit, for a profit. Some cart or truck operators pay more than $20,000 for a food vending permit.

Because there is greater demand than supply of permits, a black market for the licenses has emerged.

The Wall Street Journal reported that transferring or renting these permits to another vendor is illegal. But many vendors have turned to this illegal black market for permits.

Business owners who have legal permits, or who compete with the food carts and trucks, are against the black market.

“The people out there operating the carts are not the ones who have the permits,” said business official Dan Pisark. He questioned the permit owners’ motives.

The vendors say getting a cart or truck permit can take 10 to 15 years. Some vendors work the street unlicensed.

Vendors have protested at City Hall about the permit system. They call for vendors to be licensed. They say vendors should have a permit in their own name. Others call for more permits to be issued.

“People got to live. They’ve got families. They got kids, children,” said Bernard Thompson, a New York City street vendor. “You know, they’ve got to eat.”

I'm Mario Ritter.

Bernard Shusman wrote this story for Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

vending – adj. to offer for sale, especially by peddling

renew – v. to cause something to continue to be effective or valid for an additional period of time​

black market – n. a system through which things are bought and sold illegally

emerge – v. to become known or apparent

transferring – v. to move someone or something from one place to another

motives – n. a reason for doing something

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