Councilwoman Sandra Ung on Wednesday, March 8, announced a petition calling on the city to enforce existing street vending regulations, including the no-vending zone that went into effect in 2018, to address the proliferation of unlicensed street vendors in downtown Flushing.
The councilwoman was joined by Dian Yu, executive director of the Flushing Business Improvement District (BID), and concerned community members for a press conference near the Flushing LIRR Station on Main Street and Kissena Boulevard, where some vendors sell vegetables, fruits and clothing.
“I am encouraging everyone who is frustrated like us to sign this petition and show the city that people who live, work and visit here, support enforcement of the no vending zone and want our sidewalks to return back to the pedestrians they’re intended for,” Ung said.
The current density of street vendors has created a risk to public safety. The petition drive comes ahead of an interagency meeting Ung will host next week to discuss the issue.
“It’s one of the busiest commercial corridors in the five boroughs and home to the third busiest intersection in the city,” Ung said. “And let me be clear, our goal is not to prevent people from making a living or providing for their families; however, in the absence of enforcement, the current situation in downtown Flushing has become untenable.”
The lack of enforcement has created an opportunity for vendors selling counterfeit goods, live seafood and illegal cannabis, according to Ung.
“It is clear the current approach of trying to educate vendors to follow the law is not working and, in fact, the situation is getting worse,” Ung said. “It has become nearly impossible for people with mobility issues to navigate downtown Flushing.”
Ung said her office has heard complaints from people with disabilities, commuters who wait for the buses and those who now avoid shopping and eating out in the area.
In April 2022, Ung met with Vilda Vera Mayuga, commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), for a walking tour of Main Street to discuss the issue and possible solutions. Although DCWP allocated additional resources, such as providing educational outreach and voluntary compliance from the vendors, their strategy didn’t help to resolve the issue, according to Ung.
Three months later, Ung had urged the city yet again to address the proliferation of the unlicensed street vendors. After repeatedly violating the law and refusing to comply with DCWP, the agency was forced to work with NYPD to confiscate the goods that the vendors were selling.
However, one year later, community members are still complaining about the illegal vendors.
“We have to gain the sidewalk back. The sidewalk is for all New Yorkers,” Yu said. “We cannot forget that we are a transit hub with 100,000 walking on Main Street, so we have got to get the street cleaned up and have the city agency enforce the law.”
Attorney Leo Rosales, who practices personal injury at a law firm on Main Street and 39th Avenue, said he has heard from many clients about their difficulties navigating the sidewalk along the commercial corridor.
“A lot of my clients have difficulty walking and it’s hard enough already and worse to have sidewalks narrowed. It’s just very difficult for my clients, so this is a great effort,” Rosales said.
Ira Dananberg, a hearing instrument specialist at Acousticon of Flushing Hearing Aid Center at 39-01 Main St., said he works with a lot of elderly people who are very intimidated navigating the streets now.
The sidewalks are half the size they should be, causing him to lose a lot of business because people don’t want to come to downtown Flushing anymore, Dananberg said.
“I’m sure it’s hurting a lot of businesses and something really needs to be done,” Dananberg said.
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.