Mayor vows changes after NYC street vendor's fresh produce thrown away

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Monday, September 27, 2021
Mayor vows changes after street vendor's produce thrown away
Support continues to grow for a street vendor whose produce was thrown away by New York City sanitation workers last week, sparking outrage and disbelief.

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- Support continues to grow for a street vendor whose produce was thrown away by New York City sanitation workers last week.

Video of the workers throwing carton after carton of fresh fruits and vegetables into garbage trucks garnered outrage and disbelief, with many saying the city is tone deaf on the topic of food insecurity.

Diana Hernandez Cruz has been selling produce for five years along Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, but city officials say the immigrant and mother did not have the proper permits

"I'm here in the rain, I'm here in the snow," she told Eyewitness News over the weekend. "I've been working to provide food but also to take care of my family."

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Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in Monday, saying he was unhappy about what happened and that changes need to be made.

"This shouldn't have happened," he said. "I don't blame any one person or agency. I think this is a classic thing of bureaucracies not communicating and not using common sense."

The Department of Sanitation said the food was abandoned and needed to be disposed of for the safety of the community.

"This video shows a small portion of an unfortunate situation, where abandoned material needed to be disposed of for the safety of the community," the department said in a statement. "The Department of Sanitation is committed to our mission of keeping streets and neighborhoods safe, clean, and healthy."

Local food vendor activists say the issue really is that these hardworking vendors are not getting the permits they deserve, and they say the process needs to be sped up.

"Instead of giving her the opportunity to formalize her business, get a permit, she is being criminalized," said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, of the Street Vendor Project.

A new city law will bring 4,000 more permits into the system, but that roll out doesn't begin until next year.

"It's going to be a gradual process over a period of 10 years, and most of these vendors need some kind of relief now in the middle of a pandemic," said Eric Nava-Perez, also with the Street Vendor Project. "Not more citations not more tickets

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Meanwhile, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection released a statement, saying, "The results of this multi-agency vending enforcement are not in line with the city's policies. DCWP and its sister agencies who assist with confiscations when necessary will work together to ensure this type of wastefulness does not happen again."

Hernandez Cruz says she plans to continue to work at the food stand and continue to pursue a city permit. At a rally Sunday, she encouraged vendors stand their ground.

"You've got a lot of good quality food, let's get it to a homeless shelter or food pantry or someplace where it can be used," de Blasio said. "I'm disappointed, and we're going to have to figure out some quick new approaches to make sure this never happens again."

Hernandez Cruz says she is also asking the city to reimburse her for her losses.


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