Sunday, July 24, 2011

where the other half shops

It's a class war. That's the unmistakeable conclusion from reading SPOILED, a new report by the Street Vendor Project in New York City, detailing the city's unequal treatment of the vendors in the Forsyth Street Market in Chinatown and the Union Square Greenmarket, uptown near 14th Street. The report shows that the city issues an astonishing 500 Environmental Control Board violations a year to the Forsyth Street vendors (that's more than 1 a day). And most of those violations were for spurious supposed problems like stacking crates on the ground or having ones vending cart in the wrong location, or hoisting a tarp overhead to block the hot sun. In the crackdown on Forsyth Street, officials have destroyed produce, confiscated pushcarts, and issued criminal citations to the vendors. In upscale Union Square, by contrast, merchants are largely immune from this kind of enforcement, and are not even required to have licenses to sell on the street.

Here's how the Street Vendor Project categorizes the selective enforcement: "There are two worlds in New York City, and the difference between them is the difference between the Union Square Greenmarket, where foodies peruse organic heirloom tomatoes at $4 per pound, and the Forsyth Street Market in Chinatown, under the Manhattan Bridge, where $4 will get you three pounds of onions, a pound of peppers,  three pounds of bok choy, and  a couple mangoes. With a dragon fruit thrown if you speak Chinese. While the City rightly supports markets like at Union Square, it gave nearly 2,000 tickets to vendors at Forsyth Street Market the past two years, in addition to arrests, confiscation of produce, seizures of carts and equipment, and illegal parking restrictions. Why the unequal treatment? Unlike at Union Square,  the immigrants who work and shop at Forsyth Street – 94% of them Asian-American — have no voice."

No comments: