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After police commissioner’s first visit to Flushing, NYPD confiscates illegal street vendor’s strawberries

Nov. 3, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan

Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban joined Council Member Sandra Ung on a brief walk through downtown Flushing on Friday, Nov. 3. 

During the walk down Main Street, which started at the intersection at 39th Street, Ung pointed out several establishments to Caban. Ung mentioned that it was the commissioner’s first time visiting Flushing. But it wasn’t clear if Caban, who hails from the Bronx, visited the area before in non-professional capacity. 

“Crime is down across all our five boroughs, but like we talked about, it means nothing to the actual person who’s a victim of a crime,” said Caban during the walk. “If they don’t feel safe, that’s their reality.”

The Nov. 3 tour marked the first time Caban visited Flushing, according to Ung. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Their discussion centered around two issues that go hand in hand: public safety and the crackdown of illegal street vendors that sell everything from live crab to winter accessories on the sidewalks. 

“When you talk about downtown Flushing and how complex it is, in terms of the people walking, it’s important that he actually sees it firsthand,” said the Ung, who pointed out that the 10 a.m. congestion when the tour started was just the beginning of the congestion that swells throughout the day. 

Not long after Caban left, an illegal street vendor who was selling fruit at the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue had stacks of strawberries confiscated by police after they confirmed she was selling without a license. 

The street vendor was selling strawberries outside on the corner of Roosevelt Ave. and Main Street before police apprehended her and confiscated the produce. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

A spokesperson for Ung’s office mentioned that vendors, like the one who was forced to stop selling strawberries, often leave cardboard and other trash behind on the sidewalks.

Ung’s office has been working to locate an alternative space for street vendors where it doesn’t contribute to the existing congestion and create safety hazards. Setting up stands on the sidewalks creates a safety risk for pedestrians, especially for the elderly and young children.

Police officers loaded the strawberries into the NYPD van. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

And despite stressing that conversions around illegal street vending in the area have been going on for years, Ung said that a quick solution is not possible. For an alternative space to be allocated, there needs to be collaboration with other city agencies such as the Department of Transportation and NYC Parks. 

Ung, who assumed office in January 2022, added that her team has facilitated education and outreach efforts to the vendors in various languages since she stepped into the role. 

“One of my top parties in this community is always making sure that people who grew up here like me want to have their family here. That they want to grow here,” said Ung, who has lived in Flushing since she was 10 years old. “Some people leave other neighborhoods and I don’t want that to happen to this neighborhood.”

Council member Sandra Ung says she has lived in Flushing since she was ten years old. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Ung said that the issue of street vendors fell in the top two complaints that she receives from her constituents who live in downtown Flushing, the other one being public safety. 

“I just appreciate the fact that he came,” said Ung. “I would certainly hope this would not be his last time coming down here.” 

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