It’s hard to sell a soft pretzel and coffee when everybody is working from home.
So as New York City’s office buildings stay empty, Morgan Stanley and Robin Hood are contributing $2 million to the street vendors they once counted on for an afternoon caffeine rush.
The Street Business Economy
New York City has about 20,000 vendors hawking coffee, food and merchandise along the street.
In normal years, these businesses contribute $293 million to New York’s economy and generate $71 million in tax revenue.
The pandemic has crushed them for a few reasons:
- With street traffic dwindling to almost nothing, vendors’ revenues are way down (70% to 90%, according to Morgan Stanley).
- Many vendors are immigrants. Their immigration status and the informality of their business has prevented them from applying for federal relief.
- Similar to grocery store employees, vendors’ jobs have become dangerous. Some 25% have tested positive for Covid-19 or reported that a family member has tested positive.
- Other people who have lost work have opened carts on the street — selling everything from Clorox Wipes to George Floyd pins and creating more competition.
The $2 million will be split among 2,000 vendors receiving $1,000 each. That’s hardly enough to make up for a 90% loss. But the director of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project notes that Morgan Stanley and Robin Hood have done more than anybody else. “Every level of government,” he said, “has left them out in the cold without financial relief.”