Five street vendors in SoHo are suing the NYPD for seizing property after a sweep of lower Broadway. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Street vendors say it's not easy trying to make money by selling food, pictures and other items. And they say the police department is cutting into their profits.
Five vendors who work along Broadway near Spring Street are suing the NYPD and the First Precinct over a raid on vendors back in May.
"Give me a ticket and tell me to pack up," said street vendor Alassane Fall. "And I pack up, they tell me 'no, you don't have to leave, we are going to take everything from you.'"
The vendors have permits to operate. But they said officers took their carts and merchandise and also gave them summonses, some for supposedly being too close to a bus stop or doorway. The vendors said they weren't and call it harassment.
"After a few days, the police came again and started harassing," said vendor Jhampa Dolma. "'This is a bus stop. Why don't you listen to us? You can't vend here and you have to pack up and give us a ticket' and let us pack up. If we make some delay, they yelled at us and said 'you are a liar.'"
The vendors said most of the tickets they got were dismissed in court. Now, they're filing a federal lawsuit accusing police of violating their civil rights by seizing their property. They want compensation for lost wages.
"In an economic climate when the city should be encouraging the growth of small businesses, it discourages by giving out $1,000 tickets and taking away property," said Matthew Shapiro, the attorney for the Street Vendor Project.
The vendors said they are hardworking and just trying to earn a honest living to support their families. But they say the police treated them like criminals."
"I have six kids," Fall said. "I have to feed them with this. I have been doing this for 12 years."
The vendors said police officers have cracked down because Soho residents have complained about them at community board meetings.
The police department didn't have a response to the lawsuit. City lawyers say they are looking over the paperwork.