Street vendor advocates say enough is enough after a woman was arrested at a NYC subway station for selling fruit

NEW YORK – Street vendors push the city back after another video goes viral of police arresting a vendor in Brooklyn.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman spoke to the arrested woman, who said she felt she had no choice but to continue breaking the law.

For more than a decade, Maria Falcon has been selling fruit from a trolley at the Broadway Junction subway station.

She earns about $80 a day.

Just over a week ago, the NYPD took Falcon away in handcuffs and confiscated her belongings. After patting the 43-year-old woman, police gave her a summons for an unlicensed general sale.

“I felt very sad and scared,” she told Bauman in Spanish. “I have been selling for a long time. I tried to find other jobs, but I was refused because of my age. We do not harm anyone. We just need a permit to do our work legally .”

The video of his arrest sparked ire. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams tweeted, in part, “We need to provide economic opportunity for New Yorkers who sue them, not criminalize them or push them through the justice system.”

The NYPD said Falcon received another summons several weeks prior and was given multiple warnings by transit officers that public sale was against the law in the transit system.

“There’s a reason we have a health standards ministry. If people are just selling food without any form of quality assurance of their food, someone could get sick from that, that’s is why there are rules in the subway system,” Mayor Eric Adams said.

Falcon said she also didn’t want to sell food on the subway, but was not allowed to sell outside, despite claiming to have her mobile food vendor license.

“Unfortunately, there is a cap on the number of licenses available to street vendors in New York that has been in place for almost 40 years. So she is actually not able to legally work as a vendor. Not just her. There are thousands of people on a waiting list to even try to get a permit,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, deputy director of the Street Vendor Project.

Kaufman-Gutierrez said there has been some improvement since 2019, when a churro vendor named Elsa was arrested at the same station, sparking a similar backlash.

BACKWARDS: Hundreds take to Harlem streets to protest arrest of subway food vendors, dozens taken into custody

The city plans to issue 400 new permits each year, starting this summer.

“First to those who were on the waiting list, then gradually over the next 10 years, every year, 400 more licenses,” Kaufman-Gutierrez said.

But that may not help Falcon or Elsa.

“In fact, she can’t even get on the waiting list for a mobile food vendor license because it’s been closed since 2007,” Kaufman-Gutierrez said.

Until Falcon and Elsa are able to secure those elusive permits, they now stick together as they defiantly continue selling fruit on the subway.

In a statement, the MTA said, “appreciates that the NYPD is working at all levels to protect subway riders and encourage compliance with all system rules of conduct.”


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