The Street Vendor Project provides robust legal services to empower our member vendors to assert and defend their rights as workers in public space. Each year we represent well over 500 individual cases on issues ranging from providing advice and consultation on vending regulations, representing vendors in court for alleged vending violations, providing sales tax assistance, and assisting with license and permit renewals.
We also support our membership to take legal action - read about some of our success stories below:
State Court Litigation
Ahmed Galal v. City of New York
Ahmed Galal is an Egyptian immigrant who currently lives in a homeless shelter. In December, 2015, he was working as an employee on a food cart on 25th Street near 5th Avenue when the Health Department and NYPD arrived and claimed the cart was stolen. Ahmed, who speaks minimal English, had no information about the cart itself since he was just a worker. The NYPD arrested Ahmed, who spent a night in jail. Months later, after his criminal case was dismissed, Ahmed tried to renew his food vendor license when he found out that there were four tickets that were issued in his name by the Health Department on the day he was arrested. However, the tickets were never served on him since he was in NYPD custody at the time. Since he had no notice of these tickets, they went into default and the fines totaled $3,500.00. OATH, the City’s administrative tribunal that adjudicates these violations, refused to give Ahmed new hearing dates to contest the tickets, so SVP filed a lawsuit in the State Supreme Court. The City then agreed to settle the case and schedule new hearings for the tickets. SVP represented Ahmed at the hearing and all the tickets were subsequently dismissed.
Read the Complaint
Godwin Ojofeitimi v. City of New York
The Health Department refused to renew Godwin’s mobile food vending permit, which he had used to run a Caribbean food truck, for allegedly submitting his renewal application after the deadline. In fact, Godwin did submit his application before his permit expired, but the City refused to accept it due to a technical error concerning his Sales Tax ID. As a result, Godwin would lose his permit and his vending business forever. SVP brought a lawsuit against the Health Department and Judge Bluth from the New York Supreme Court ruled that the City’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” and an “abuse of discretion” and directed the Health Department to renew Godwin’s permit so he could continue his business.
Read the Judge’s decision
Maria Chimborazo v. City of New York
Maria is originally from Ecuador and sells sliced fruit at different locations around the City. On September 29, 2016, a Health Department inspector issued two tickets with Maria’s name, but never actually gave her the tickets because the inspector’s ticket printer malfunctioned. As such, Maria never knew about the tickets, which totaled over $2,000.00, and subsequently missed the hearing date. OATH denied Maria’s request for a new hearing so SVP filed a lawsuit to order the City to grant Maria a new hearing so she may contest the tickets. The case is currently pending in the State Supreme Court.
Read the Complaint
Carlos Vasquez v. City of New York
Carlos Vasquez, originally from Puerto Rico, sells fruit and vegetables from a pushcart in downtown Manhattan. In 2011, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“DOHMH”) refused to renew Carlos’ food vending permit, which he needs to legally operate his business, because he turned in his renewal application after the deadline. In fact, Carlos had submitted his application a month before the deadline but the DOHMH mistakenly thought it was incomplete and therefore did not accept it. SVP filed an Article 78 proceeding in the New York Supreme Court and the DOHMH then agreed to settle the case and reissue Carlos his food vending permit.
Read the complaint
Sabul Hussain v. City of New York
The ECB fined Sabul Hussain, a hot dog vendor, $1,000 for a ticket issued in 2004. However, the police officer who wrote the ticket never actually gave it to Sabul and he first found out about the ticket in 2008. Sabul repeatedly asked for a hearing to dispute the ticket but the Environmental Control Board (“ECB”) refused. SVP had no choice but to file an Article 78 proceeding in the New York State Supreme Court. The judge ruled that Sabul had a right to a hearing to contest the ticket. SVP then appeared at the ECB for a hearing, after which the ticket was dismissed.
Read the judge’s decision
Abdurraheem, et al. v. Beddoe, et al.
In 2012, SVP filed a class action lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court after learning that the City was fining vendors more than the maximum legal amount for tickets they received from the NYPD and DOHMH. The City agreed to settle the case and refund approximately $228,000 to vendors who overpaid their fines as a result of the City’s miscalculations.
Read the New York Post coverage
Ahmed Hassan v. City of New York
Hassan had only been working for one month when his food cart was inspected by the DOHMH. The inspector asked him for a copy of the vending permit. Ahmed knew the permit paper was on the pushcart but didn’t know the exact location. By the time he found it, the health inspector had issued Ahmed a ticket for $1,000 because he didn’t produce it “upon demand.” This ticket was upheld at an administrative proceeding at the ECB. SVP brought an Article 78 proceeding challenging the decision. The court ruled in favor of Ahmed, calling the decision of the ECB “arbitrary and capricious.”
Read the judge’s decision
Federal Court Litigation
Ahmed, et al. v. City of New York
Food vendors often have their carts and other property seized during “task force” enforcement actions undertaken by the Health Department, NYPD, and Department of Sanitation. Normally, all property seized by the City is vouchered and kept, pending any hearing to determine whether the vendor can retrieve their cart. Sometimes, however, the City seizes vendors’ carts and then destroys them without any process to determine whether the City can lawfully retain their property. Sanwar Ahmed and Ana Buestan are two vendors who had their carts’ seized and subsequently destroyed during the Summer of 2016, and are the named plaintiffs in this class action that was filed to challenge the City’s unlawful policy of food vendor property destruction without any Due Process. The case is currently pending in the Southern District of New York.
Read the Complaint
Waleed Salama v. City of New York
Waleed, originally from Egypt, is a food vendor who has sold food in Midtown Manhattan for seventeen years. In July, 2012, Waleed was violently arrested when three NYPD officers attempted to force him to leave from his legal vending location. SVP filed a lawsuit against the officers and the City for the unlawful arrest which ultimately settled after the City agreed to pay Waleed $30,000.00.
Co-counsel Covington & Burling LLP
Read the Complaint
Maria Cocoango v. City of New York
Maria is an immigrant from Ecuador who sells Ecuadorian desserts in Corona, Queens. In March, 2014, she was arrested by an NYPD officer who claimed Maria had a fake food vending license. In fact, Maria had a valid license but the City had changed its design, apparently without notifying the NYPD. After SVP filed a civil rights case for Maria, the City agreed to settle by paying Maria $20,000.00.
Sheikh Faisal v. City of New York
Faisal is a food vendor who has sold hot dogs in Soho for more than ten years. In 2009, two NYPD officers approached Sheikh,gave him three tickets for allegedly vending too close to the crosswalk, and then unlawfully seized his vending pushcart and all of the contents. SVP filed a civil rights case against the officers and the City of New York in the Southern District of New York. The City agreed to settle the case by paying Shekih $9,000 to compensate for his lost food, damage to his cart, and days of missed work.
See a picture of Sheikh
Mrigle, et al. v. City of New York
Abdelliah Mrigle and Adel Sayed had worked on a food cart at 29th Street and Broadway for more than five years. In 2010, several NYPD officers began a campaign of illegal enforcement, including writing tickets, threats of arrest, and illegal orders to close their food cart, in order to get them to move from their legal vending location. After several NYPD officers arrested Abdelliah, SVP filed a civil rights lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the arresting officers and City of New York, for the unlawful arrest. The City settled the case by paying Abdelliah and Adel $26,000.
Co-Counsel O’Melveny & Meyers LLP
Read the complaint
Marie-Rose Goba v. City of New York
In 2013, SVP member Marie Rose Goba was arrested for selling mangoes on 28th Street in Manhattan. The police officer claimed she was vending without a license when in fact, Marie Rose had a copy of her license with her and showed it to the officer. SVP filed a civil rights case against the arresting officer, and City of New York, for the unlawful arrest. The City agreed to settle the case by paying Marie-Rose $13,000.00.
See a picture of Marie-Rose
Wagner, et. al. v. City of New York
SVP filed a civil rights case against an NYPD officer and the City of New York on behalf of two vendors, Hakim Abdurraheem and Lawrence Wagner, regarding their 2012 arrest for selling allegedly counterfeit “I Love NY” t-shirts. Hakim and Larry are both disabled veterans who were arrested even though they had no idea the shirts they were selling may have been counterfeit (a necessary element of the crime). Additionally, the arresting officers deprived Hakim and Larry of their cane and wheelchair, respectively, while detained. After Judge Caproni denied the City’s summary judgment motion, the case settled when the City agreed to pay Larry and Hakim $60,000.00 for their claims.
Yuhua Liu v. City of New York
Yuhua Liu is a Chinese immigrant and street vendor who draws caricatures on the sidewalks near Times Square. In 2013, he was arrested when a police officer claimed one of his drawings was touching the sidewalk. Yuhua was acquitted of the charges at a criminal trial. SVP has filed a civil rights lawsuit in the SDNY for the unlawful arrest. The City agreed to settle the case and pay Yuhua $18,000.00 for his damages and unlawful arrest.
Read what Gothamist had to say about Liu’s criminal case