Corona Plaza street vendors spark neighborhood uproar

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Corona Plaza in Queens became a hub of activity, as nearly 100 vendors gathered to sell food and various items.

For street food fans, it became a Mecca. But while a handful had permits to be vendors - most did not, and complaints started racking up, ranging from trash to blocked sidewalks, to criminal activity.

City authorities took action last week and cleared out the plaza, giving vendors a week's notice. However, this move was met with resistance, as vendors and their supporters held a rally Wednesday, demanding to be allowed to return. 

"They took away umbrellas and fans in the middle of a heat wave. That is cruelty." Said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

However, local City Council member Francisco Moya says he consistently receives 20 complaints a week about the vendors. 

Some are from businesses whose owners and employees are also struggling to survive - other complaints are coming in from those worries about their safety. There have been 77 felony arrests in the plaza since the beginning of this year.

"20 in the last month," Moya said. "When you’re selling alcohol from coolers in there. We have videos of people… who say ‘when they’re drunk, they’re going to eat more’"

Amid the controversy, the Street Vendor Project has been actively organizing the vendors in Corona Plaza to help them transition into legitimate businesses.

The organization's Deputy Director, Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, is optimistic an agreement can be reached that will bring the vendors back while addressing concerns in the neighborhood.

"We do know there are issues, nobody is hiding from that," Kaufman-Gutierrez told FOX 5 NY. "That’s why we want to work with the city to come to an agreement with the Plaza so that it can be managed better, but in coordination with the vendors."