NYC reopens scaled-down Corona Plaza street market
The popular street market at Corona Plaza in Queens is returning with far fewer vendors and more regulations after being shut down by the city this summer. Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday announced plans to restore the marketplace at 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue with just 14 vendors compared to the more than 80 merchants located there before the shutdown in July. The city said regulating the community vending area became necessary after complaints over public safety and cleanliness increased fivefold in one year.
The plaza will be open every Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For the time being, only merchandise vendors will be permitted at first because of health and safety requirements food vendors still need to meet.
As part of the plan, the city has entered into a four-month contract with the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), which will serve as the operator of the vending area. In early 2024, the city will issue a request for proposals to select a long-term operator.
The new marketplace will feature 14 vendors, with up to 10 permitted to sell food. Before the market was dispersed, it had seen up to 90 vendors selling their wares. All vendors must have contracts with QEDC, which will assist them in applying for any additional permits or licenses that they need, including a food vending permit from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that all food vendors must apply for. Vendors will also be required to pay quarterly sales taxes, according to the New York Times.
The city’s plan for Corona Plaza is part of a recommendation from the mayor’s Street Vendor Advisory Board, which included representatives from city agencies, street vendors, retail food stores, property owners, small businesses, and community organizations.
“Our administration has a vision for a Corona Plaza that welcomes all members of our community — keeping our neighbors safe, ensuring our streets are clean, and creating economic opportunities for local residents,” Adams said.
“For too long, city government has told the community around Corona Plaza to fend for themselves, but now we are being clear that we are here to help. This community deserves a plaza that everyone living in, working in, and visiting the area can enjoy — and that’s exactly what this plan will deliver.”
The marketplace surged in popularity during the pandemic when residents of Corona, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic, turned to vending to support themselves financially. Corona Plaza quickly became known for its selection of Latin American street food, unique wares from Central and South America, and more.
Corona Plaza even earned a place on the New York Times’ recent list of the 100 best restaurants in the city.
However, after reports of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and that many of the vendors lacked the proper permits, Department of Sanitation workers closed the market in late July. As of October 31, the city’s 311 system had received 78 complaints from local residents about illegal vending, according to the city.
After the plaza was cleared out, only a few vendors who possessed permits were able to stay, and even then, were forced to take down their canopies and work underneath the scorching summer sun, according to Hell Gate.
Under the city’s plan, vendors can operate at the plaza but under restrictive guidelines. Many of the plaza’s favorite vendors will be forced to return less frequently or will be unable to return at all, as the city’s process for getting a vending permit is incredibly hard.
The city has issued just 14 street vending permits, despite a waiting list of more than 10,000 applicants, according to the New York Times. There are only roughly 5,100 mobile food vending permits that are currently active citywide due to a cap that was instated in the 1980s. However, a law passed by the City Council in 2021 will double that number over the next 10 years.
As the Times reported, some of the plaza’s former vendors, many of whom are undocumented, immigrant women, will need to find second jobs.