BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Street vendors joined Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and community leaders to hold a press conference on April 23 to announce a new collaborative project, the Clean Streets Initiative.
“I am proud to endorse the Clean Streets Initiative,” said Dromm. “I have been working with street vendors to improve conditions in our communities for a long time and feel this is a giant step in the right direction to addressing some of the issues concerning street vending.”
Some may think street vendors are the cause of dirty street corners, but Agha Saleh, founder of Social Uplift Knowledge and Hope Initiatives (Sukhi New York), feels otherwise.
“The street vendors are the bread and butter of the local community. They are real eyes and ears. They don’t liter, instead they use their garbage bins and create a clean space for their customers,” he said.
One of the goals of non-profit organization VAMOS Unidos is to advocate street vendor rights. As part of the Clean Street Initiative program, street vendors will place around stickers reading “Clean Streets Initiative” on their carts in Jackson Heights and Corona. The participants will pledge to maintain the area within a 20-foot radius of their carts. The vendor owners will keep their area clean of debris and provide more trash bins if needed.
VAMOS Unidos took the lead in the NYC Green Cart program, which introduced 1,000 new green carts to sell fruits and vegetables in underserved areas, and it has proven successful. The organization joined with the Dept. of Health and ally organizations, helping to provide low cost, healthy foods to communities plagued by diseases.
“It is these kids of pro-worker, pro-community projects that improve neighborhoods,” said Rafael Samanez, executive director of VAMOS Unidos. “This is a kick-off to unite vendors and turnaround the negative image of vendors in New York City.”
VAMOS Unidos plans to expand to other neighborhoods and create a collective effort to keep the streets clean, which in turn will increase business and the livelihood of Queens.
“We provide the community with reasonable priced and fresh food,” said Sammy Noor, owner of Sammy’s Halal Food, located on the corner of 73rd Road and Broadway in Jackson Heights. “This program reinforces our pledge to keep our neighborhood clean because we not only work here, but also live here.”
Even though VAMOS Unidos initiated this program in response to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’(D-East Elmhurst) New Deal Program, which proposes to increase the number of garbage bins and sanitation pickups, as well as install more lighting and video cameras on Roosevelt Avenue; Ferreras’ program does not seek a reduction or removal of street vendors.
The 37th Road pedestrian plaza in Jackson Heights has recently emerged as the local gathering place for the community and a central place where holidays from all religions are being celebrated. Last year, businesses were angered by the decrease in traffic and drop in sales, but united efforts from Sukhi NY and VAMOS Unidos changed the mindset of the local businesses. The pedestrian plaza is slowly becoming an advantage to the local businesses because they see an increase in sales, an increase in foot-traffic from nationalities other than Asian Americans and together they strive to keep the area clean.
Reach Reporter Trisha Sakhuja at (718-357-4000), Ext. 128, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.