Illegal Street Vendors vs. Roosevelt Avenue Merchants

The people who live and have businesses along Roosevelt Avenue have a common complaint. It is the dozens of illegal street vendors who create a flea market atmosphere every weekend, and negatively impact their businesses, and the tranquility of their neighborhood.
“On weekends, Roosevelt Avenue, Warner Street and Junction Boulevard are full of illegal vendors. We have been here over 50 years, and now people dropping oils and food on the streets, is creating a problem with rats,” said Diane, manager of a real estate company located on Roosevelt Avenue.
The old timers of the neighborhood complain that the informal vendors are selling food, clothing, CD’s, DVD’s, shoes, perfumes, make-up, fruits and vegetables. “On weekends you can’t walk down Roosevelt Avenue, the sidewalks are full of vendors,” said Orlando Tobon, a member of Community Board No. 3, that covers Jackson Heights, Corona and East Elmhurst.
According to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens, HCCQ, these informal vendors do hurt the small businesses. “The illegal vendors don’t pay rent, insurance, utilities or taxes, and they don’t even hire employees, so they can sell their commodities at a very low price, which is detrimental to the small businessmen,” said Eduardo Giraldo, president of the board of directors of HCCQ.
“Our business is down 40% on the weekends and 20% on regular days, because of the illegal vendors. I’m afraid I might have to close my business, like the Mexican restaurant did a few weeks ago. The illegal vendors broke it,” said Cesar Jachero, manager of Angelo’s Restaurant, on Roosevelt Ave. and 95th St.
Jesus Inga of Sabor Latino Restaurant in the same area agreed with Jachero. “We have lost at least 20% of our sales on weekends. We have been in touch with the police, but they say that they can’t do anything,” he said.
“We are working hard, we need to feed our families,” said Antonio, a Mexican who is working as a street vendor.
Some experts say the situation is part of the immigration process. Roosevelt Avenue has experienced a flow of recent immigrants from Asia, Latin America and East Europe, where the informal markets are part of the economy.
“These immigrants are buying cheap merchandise from other immigrants. We can’t forget that the informal market is in many cases the route to the formal market,” said Dr. Arturo Sanchez, a professor of social and urban issues at LaGuardia Community College, who is conducting one investigation of this area.
On the other hand, Councilman Hiram Monserrate said that the informal vendors are breaking the law. “They don’t have licenses for these activities, so it means that the police must enforce the laws, and protect the public,” said Monserrate.
“We are investigating,” said a spokesman with the NYPD headquarters.

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