Street Vendors in NYC

01/26/2011 at 1:48 pm

So now that I am back in the grad schools, I am actually learning things on a daily basis, not just horrible realizations about The Wiz. One of the courses I’m taking is a studio project about Street Vendors in New York City, specifically Lower Manhattan.

In class yesterday, Sean Basinksy, Director of the Street Vendor Project (an affiliate of the Urban Justice Center), came and talked to our class about the research to be done this semester. Before he left, he handed me a brochure called “Vendor Power: A Guide to Street Vending in New York City

The pamphlet contains very interesting facts about street vending in NYC, such as:

-There are 7,000 vendor arrests annually.
-Only 17% of vendors in Lower Manhattan are U.S. Born (and almost all are war veterans).
-The most common language spoken by vendors in Lower Manhattan is Bengali.

Fortunately/Unfortunately, those aren’t the figures that stuck with me. What did, you ask?

Businesses That Started As Pushcarts:

Roc-A-Fella Records
Goldman Sachs

Former NYC Vendors:

Jerry Seinfeld
Jean-Michael Basquiat

While I’m assuming Jay-Z was pushing demo tapes in Brooklyn in his cart, can you imagine if this guy was just selling grapes in 1992?

I would buy grapes from that man. 100 percent. I would also expect him, 19 years later, to be worth 450 Million, be married to the biggest female star in the world and have Warren Buffett on speed dial.

All from pushing grapes. And Memphis Bleek.


Rembert Browne is a graduate student at Columbia University GSAPP in urban planning. He writes for his irreverent blog, 500daysasunder and also wrote the article on the  Broken Angel House for Untapped New York.



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