A Big NYC Attraction Becomes Illegal
If you were an immigrant who just arrived to New York City in the 1880s and had at least 10 cents, you could rent a pushcart and become a business owner. For more than 50 years, pushcart markets in New York City offered immigrants immediate access to an $828 million industry (in today’s money) that sold competitively priced goods like groceries, household items, and clothing. However, those who were wealthy and in anti- pushcart movements complained primarily about poor sanitation in these markets. So, in 1938, Mayor La Guardia proclaimed in The New York Times that “peddling on the streets of this city is a thing of the past.” To ease opposition, La Guardia opened indoor markets, which required pushcart sellers to apply for limited spots and pay higher fees. Thousands of pushcart sellers lost their jobs afterward, and some brick-and-mortar stores lost as much as 60% of their business with the decrease in nearby foot traffic.
To this day, pushcart selling is still illegal.
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