New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) workers threw away multiple crates of produce from an unlicensed street vendor in the Bronx, New York, amid protests from onlookers, video posted on September 23 shows.
Footage filmed by Muneeba Hassan shows two NYPD officers observing city workers throwing food into a garbage truck while a small crowd of citizens gathered in protest at the corner of White Plains Road and Pelham Parkway South.
Activists said city officials trashed “thousands of dollars” worth of food from the stand — located in an area described by activists as a “food desert” — which had been run for several years by a woman identified in local reports as Diana Hernandez. A spokesman for the DSNY said the amount of food that was thrown away was being exaggerated.
DSNY spokesman Joshua Goodman responded to Storyful’s request for comment, saying: “This video shows a small portion of an unfortunate situation, where abandoned material needed to be disposed of for the safety of the community. The Department of Sanitation is committed to our mission of keeping streets and neighborhoods safe, clean, and healthy.”
Goodman elaborated on the incident in an email to Storyful, writing, “This began as a Department of Consumer and Worker Protection enforcement action, where they were issuing a violation to the vendor – I believe for vending without a license,” Goodman wrote.
“When the inspector began issuing the violation (after what I’m told were multiple warnings in both English and Spanish), the vendor abandoned the items. NYPD called in DSNY to come dispose of what was then a large amount of abandoned material on the sidewalk. For your reference, there is a City law (Local Law 171 of 2017) that specifies that there should be an attempt to donate confiscated food, but the law says – rightly, in my opinion – that a Department of Health representative has to be on hand to certify that the food is safe … we don’t want to donate food that has been sitting out unsupervised because who knows what may have happened to it,” Goodman wrote.
“Because the chain of custody of the food could not be verified, DSNY began to dispose of the items as requested by NYPD. A crowd gathered and quickly got out of hand – this is what you see in the video.
“At this point, for the safety of our crew, DSNY left the scene, having taken only a small amount of material. We returned later in the day and found that virtually all of the food was gone, likely taken by the crowd. We removed a small amount of remaining abandoned debris at that point. So claims that ‘all the food’ or ‘thousands of dollars worth of food’ were disposed of by DSNY – which you may have seen in some of the reporting to this point – are just not accurate, according to our folks on the ground,” Goodman said.
Activists and community members rallied at the site on September 26 to support Hernandez and urge the city to eliminate a cap on street-vending permits and licenses, local news reported.
Additional footage filmed by Hassan shows the protest on Sunday. Credit: Muneeba Hassan via Storyful