Invisible Hands that Feed New York

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March 2016 - ongoing
Location: Manhattan, Queens

The stories of low-wage labor and immigration work in tandem. Even with university degrees and prior work experience, many of New York City's immigrants end up in the arduous field of street vending. It's a relatively easy entry into the job market without much competition, but a constant struggle to remain in the market due to the low cap on vending permits, restricted streets, and police harassment.

The biggest obstacle these days is obtaining a permit; due to the unnecessarily-low cap set by Mayor Ed Koch in 1981, these are now only available on the black market at up to $25,000 per two-year permit. In addition, they are attacked by business owners who believe street carts steal their customers. Vendors face erroneous criticism for not paying taxes and burdening the city. Even the cleanliness of street carts is questioned, when in truth they are inspected far more frequently than restaurants are. And for vendors toiling late nights in the city that never sleeps, there may be an element of danger.

Can selling $2 packets of nuts provide a better life for the second generation? The stories of these vendors explore the realities of achieving the American Dream in its biggest city.