Call for Volunteer Researchers: Public Space and Vending in Flushing, New York

Call for Volunteer Researchers: Public Space and Vending in Flushing, New York

In the spring of 2019 a ban on street vending in Downtown Flushing, Queens, will go into effect. Business leaders, local politicians, and some residents have justified the ban by claiming vendors cause sidewalk crowding, that they compete with storefront businesses, and contribute to a perception of Flushing’s public spaces as disorderly, chaotic, and uninviting.


This research assesses these justifications for a ban on vending through empirical research. It will use a pedestrian count before and after the ban, surveys of public space users, and semi-structured interviews with brick-and-mortar businesses in Flushing to assess:  To what extent do vendors actually contribute to sidewalk congestion? How are vendors experienced by different users of public space and stakeholders in the neighborhood? Overall, it will contrast the stated justifications for the vendor ban with the experiences of the neighborhood’s business people, public space users and residents.  Findings from the study will have implications not only for New York City, but for cities around the world where debates over street vending are ongoing.


This is a great opportunity for students in urban planning, urban design, food studies, urban sociology, or other social sciences to gain direct field research experience, with supervision under Dr. Ryan Thomas Devlin (CUNY, The New School), and Sarah Orleans Reed (WIEGO). Volunteer researchers will conduct surveys, pedestrian counts, and in-depth interviews, and support data entry between April and May 2019.  Previous research experience is desirable but not required, as we will provide orientation and training. Language skills (Spanish, Mandarin) are very desirable for conducting surveys and interviews.


We are seeking volunteers for the following periods in April 2019. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for as many slots as they are able to commit. Slots include time for training of new volunteers, so volunteers with previous experience can come later than indicated.


Snacks (from one of New York’s food capitals!) will be provided!


Wednesday, April 17

11am – 2 pm &

4 pm – 7 pm

Surveys with vendor customers / pedestrian count


**Break from 2 pm – 4pm

Thursday, April 18

1:30 pm – 7 pm

Public space user survey / pedestrian count
Friday, April 19

1:30 pm – 7 pm

Public space user and commuter survey
Wednesday, May 8

3:30 pm – 7 pm

Pedestrian count
Thursday, May, 9

3:30 pm – 7 pm

Pedestrian count
Friday, May 10

3:30 pm – 7 pm

Commuter survey



Experienced researchers can also volunteer to help conduct in-depth interviews with business owners.


Please sign up via Google Forms, at the link below:


Please direct any questions to and Ryan Thomas Devlin



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