As you walk around the streets of the West Village, you see more and more closed storefronts standing empty indefinitely. Not many businesses can say that they have been open in this neighborhood since 1991, but the Fruit Cart Vendor on the corner of 12th Street and 7th Avenue can. The third owner of the fruit cart, known to his neighbors as “Harry,” has been providing his neighbors with fresh fruits and vegetables at great prices and at a convenient location for the past 11 years. His business and livelihood are now being threatened.
On October 10th 2018, the Fruit Cart was issued a summons by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for operating a Fruit Cart on property under the Department of Parks and Recreation jurisdiction without a valid NYC Parks Department permit. The summons issued a penalty up to $2000, a court date appearance on November 13th, 2018 and a demand to move to a different location. The Fruit Cart Vendor currently holds a valid Mobile Food Vendor Full-Term Citywide Permit.
The park that the ticket is referring to is the Aids Memorial Park, which was donated to NYC in 2017, adjacent to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital at St. Vincent’s Triangle.
The street vendor, Harry, never received any prior notice or warning that his vendor permit would no longer be valid for this business of 27 years at this site. The business was here prior to the creation of the park. The NYC Department of Health makes regular visits to the cart every year and has never spoken to the vendor on this matter. The vendor is not located inside the small park but on the sidewalk outside the park. Considering the business has been onsite for 25 years longer than the park has been in existence, the cart should be grandfathered in. His current vendor license should be allowed to stand or should be transferred without exceptions to a New York City Parks vendor license.
Harry states, “I was shocked when I received this summons considering how long we have been in business in this exact spot in this neighborhood. Since I came to America, I have been located here. I love my spot and my customers. I can’t imagine moving to another location. I feel like I would be losing my family. I would prefer to close down permanently than have to relocate. This would hurt my neighborhood because I provide fresh fruit and vegetables daily at a convenient location and at great prices.”
To compare prices in the neighborhood, the local Whole Foods on 7th Avenue in Chelsea sells a bag of clementines for $6.99 while the cart sells them for $4. An apple in Whole Foods goes for $1.79 each while the cart sells them for $.50 each. A bunch of asparagus at Whole Foods costs $4.99 and the cart sells them for $2. The cart also gets a fresh delivery of fruits and vegetables each day.
Dr. D. Davis, a 58 year resident of the West Village, says it would be difficult to imagine 7th Avenue South and 12th Street without the fruit cart and vendor. Both have become icons in the West Village over the past 10 years. The seasonal 24 hour-a-day service and availability is such a valuable asset to our neighborhood. The fruits and vegetables are always quality, and very reasonably priced; and “Mr. Harry,” the vendor, is “one in a million,” so to speak; he is exemplary. Long live this special service in its present space.
If you would like to show your support for Harry and small business owners, please sign the online petition on https://www.thepetitionsite.com and search for “Save the Fruit Cart on the corner of 7th Avenue and 12th Street.”