Uniondale's frustrated street vendors stage impromptu protest

Vendors claim that police have been harassing them for months


Uniondale street vendors staged an impromptu rally on Aug. 9 to protest what they view as unfair treatment from the Nassau County Police Department.

The vendors displayed their Town of Hempstead vending licenses, clustering angrily around police officers who were demanding that they move along 200 feet every 15 minutes. Some carried signs containing messages such as, “We pay taxes,” and, “We just want to survive.”

“We find a spot not bothering anybody,” said vendor Amaury Rodriguez, “set up, and before we get anything done, they’re showing up and shutting us down, telling us it’s been over 15 minutes, whether it has been or not, and then they give you a summons and now you have to go to court.”

After shutting down Rodriguez’s fruit stand that day, police officers had moved on to another vendor who had set up shop down the block in front of the Glazed & Grill convenience store on Jerusalem Ave.

While police were confronting the vendor, Rodriguez quickly called other nearby vendors, asking them to come and protest what they described as a campaign led by law enforcement for their targeted harassment.

Fifteen to 20 vendors responded.

“I understand that there is the law, but there should be a way that we could all be happy,” said Rodriguez. “Why issue street vending licenses if you’re not going to let us sell in the streets?”

Police said they were there to enforce Town of Hempstead law.

According to the website of the Hempstead Town Clerk’s Office, the law “offers the public a measure of protection from unlicensed and unscrupulous vendors.”

To obtain a Peddling & Soliciting Permit from the town, street vendors must pay a $55 fee, then undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check. They must also provide the town with a New York State Tax Certificate and proof of worker’s compensation insurance.

Peddlers’ vehicles must be registered in New York State and inspected by the Nassau County Department of Health.

The element of Town law that appears to cause the most trouble for street vendors is Chapter 118, section 10, which explicitly states, “A peddler or solicitor shall not be permitted to stand in one place more than 15 minutes,” and “A peddler or solicitor shall not be permitted to stop within 200 feet of a previous stop.”

Police patrolling in unmarked cars cite this section of the law when demanding that street vendors move along.

Restrictions also exist on peddling near schools, during periods of high traffic congestion, or at any commercial establishment without written permission from the establishment’s owner.

According to a police report at the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association meeting on June 7 meeting that, in response to an influx of community 911 calls and complaints from members of the civic association, the NCPD was increasing its efforts to keep street vendors in check.