Metro cover story for the New York Times on Plaza Tonatiuh, a people-powered vendors market in Sunset Park that focuses on empowering the local and immigrant communities of Sunset Park, founded in 2021 as a response to the pandemic. In April 2023, the Parks department and NYPD began shutting it down and running people out. The Plaza is the the latest on the receiving end of the crackdown of small vendor businesses. Street vendors - whether in a plaza, pushing a cart going down the street, or on the subway - are a New York staple. Many vendors are immigrants, many mothers. This story goes into their fight for space, the complicated local politics and, above all, the beauty and power of community.
Ms. Cortes, with her $2,000 in unpaid bills, tried to remain optimistic. For two years, she and the other vendors had managed to survive the turmoil caused by the pandemic. Now, if they returned to the market that had sustained them, they risked arrest or confrontation. Yet they needed the income to stay afloat.
“We’re going to go back to selling,” she said. “God willing.”
Words by John Leland, photo editor Jeff Furticella