The Vendors Visioning Program by Jessica Kisner / Bonnie Netel
Identify a public space
Roosevelt Avenue is a commercial corridor in Queens that presents a complex cultural negotiation where multiple identities are intricately connected. Currently at Roosevelt Avenue, a community of residents, local business owners and street vendors have gathered to reject the expansion of the Jackson-Height Corona Business Improvement District (BID)– a project that aims for a “cleaner and safer” street. In opposition to the people on the steering committee for the BID, this group fights for the right to make their own decisions in that space. The Vendors Visioning Program (VVP) draws upon street food vendors as active citizens directly on the street to claim and challenge existing conventions of public spaces. The VVP uses the street food vendor’s space as an open stage to talk about greater issues about the city, such as imposing forces of Business Improvement Districts.
The Vendors Visioning Program (VVP) focuses on the street food vendor’s cart to highlight, illustrate and question greater issues compromising today’s cities and public space. Since specific laws governing the vendor’s cart has controlled their practice, this spatial construct will be inverted to become the point of reflection and action for both the vendor and the larger community. Through an object, program, and movement-based project, VVP seeks to re-imagine and expand design to a greater field of social networking and community participation.
Using the street food vendor’s cart as a performative object that embodies the vendors and residents narratives, the cart will open a space for those (Hi)stories to be told. The VVP will empower the opposing voices to the BID.
This goal will be accomplished by workshops and physical interventions on the vendor’s umbrella. Through the repetition of labs and appropriations of the umbrella, these activities will propel the movement as one that is visually recognizable and transferable. Once every street cart has a strong message imprinted in their umbrella, people will know further about the narratives of street food vending and how people imagine their public spaces by visual examples.
A mobile stage will plug-in to the vendor’s cart to open a space to question what is public. The stage is very simple and cost-effective to build with the objective of being able to be multiplied throughout the city. The VVP will be placed adjacent to the side of the street food vendor cart, marking on the floor with tape the same five-foot by ten-foot restrictive space the vendor has in order to sell legally according to NYC regulations.
The VVP will have two project organizers conducting workshops that provoke empowerment and action. During each lab, participants will appropriate an existing umbrella on the vendor’s cart with a message he or she would like others to know. This appropriation becomes the insignia of the movement, and it becomes a way of protesting on the street and voicing concerns and desires. The materials used during this workshop include: paint, brush foam, paint trays, paper or the canvas of the umbrella. A manual guide on how the workshops and stage are to be performed will be given out to community activist. The activist will inquire vendors and artist to participate in the project.
Organizers: Bonnie Netel and Jessica Kisner
Bonnie and Jessica are graduate students Parsons The New School for Design. They are responsible of contacting all the other members of the team. The program manual was developed during their Master’s thesis. Additionally, they held workshops and presentations throughout the process, facilitating also the first pilot project.
Community leader (street food vendor): Claudia
Claudia is a street vendor on Roosevelt Avenue that opposes the BID. She was in charge of letting the team know about insight on street food vending and her position about the BID. Claudia also participated in VVP’s pilot project, becoming the first participant to spark this movement.
Through multiple conversation, the vendors became an essential part of the group in deciding and thinking through the ways the project could be developed, informing the project about the external forces that control street food vending and our public space, and to find a mean to represent the vendor’s voices.