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New York City police raided vendors selling Islamic goods ahead of Ramadan: Report

The nearly 12 vendors on a block in the borough of Queens sold goods like prayer mats, caps, hijabs and Islamic texts, THE CITY reported
Members of the Muslim community gather at Times Square for the first Tarawih prayer of Ramadan in New York City, on 10 March 2024 (David Dee Delgado/AFP)

The New York City Police Department raided a street in the city's borough of Queens, just two days before the start of Ramadan, where Bangladeshi street vendors were selling Islamic goods.

According to a report from THE CITY, the bustling stretch where approximately twelve vendors typically offer Islamic goods in the New York City borough was notably devoid of crates and tables laden with religious texts, prayer mats, and hijabs on Thursday.

This was after police officers instructed them to vacate the area on 8 March, issuing them tickets for unlicensed street vending, THE CITY reported. 

One street vendor told the news outlet that the police officer told him to stop vending and gave him a $250 ticket. He, and others who were affected, expressed fear about returning to the area.

Several of them have now lost their entire source of income, leaving them grappling with the challenge of covering rent and grocery expenses, the news outlet wrote.

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“My biggest fear is that I’ll get arrested for working without a license,” street vendor MD Nasir Uddin, who supports his family of five including his three younger siblings, told THE CITY.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to help my family or provide for them anymore - that’s my biggest fear.”

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Currently, there are over 11,920 people on a waiting list for a merchandise vendor licence. According to one report, there are currently over 20,000 vendors working in the city - a large portion without licences. 

The licence is required for anyone who sells, leases or offers to sell or lease goods or services in a public space that is not a store.

Vendors are currently calling for the city to raise the number of licences granted to product merchants. This cap has remained fixed at 853 citywide for non-veteran sellers for decades.

In February, councilmember Pierina Ana Sanchez reintroduced a bill to the City Council.

If passed, it would mandate the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to issue 1,500 merchandise vendor licences each year for the following five years. After this period, the cap would be completely lifted.

“When I look at this space, it looks empty right now,” Uddin told THE CITY. “It’s a tough time for us. We had been looking forward to the customers.”

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