On Monday, May 20th, the organization I work for helped turn out thousands of people who marched through the streets of Greenwich Village protesting hate violence. And the truth is, I never could have been a part of it without the King of Falafel and Shawarma.
There are days, weeks, months when it seems impossible to sit down in a restaurant, a little tea light glinting in the middle of the table, making you wonder what on earth you deserve a candle for when it’s not even your birthday. This has been one of those months for me. I don’t tend to talk about my job too much here, but I work for a non-profit that, among other things, responds to incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate violence. And our city has seen nine such brutal public incidents, one of them deadly, all in a row this May.
During this month of long, difficult days, it is Astoria’s street vendors who have helped sustain me. Their easy informality and brilliant, hearty recipes restored me nightly. The King of Falafel and Shawarma alone has provided the quick late meal I needed at least 3 nights a week, in order to keep working. And I am endlessly grateful for being revived by the King of Falafel and Shawarma’s chicken and rice platter, El Rey Del Taco Truck’s salted beef tacos, and the Souvlaki King of Astoria’s hand cut fries.
A quick crowdsource on Twitter revealed other favorites as well: neighborhood newcomers Mexico Blvd and Mysttik Masaala, sweets specialists Wafels & Dinges, and the woman we buy our tamales, horchata and arroz con leche from, who sets up shop near Trade Fair on 30th Avenue at 30th Street.
The Vendy Awards are a wildly popular annual fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based non-profit comprised of more than 1,500 New York City street vendors who advocate for the economic and legal rights of food vendors citywide. “Vendor Power” (follow them @VendorPower) is an expression they use, which describes their member-driven model, as well as the tremendous cumulative influence of these talented individuals whose culinary skill and entrepreneurial ingenuity helps make our neighborhoods great. But this morning, at the end of another long week, it dawned on me that we can also think of Vendor Power in a different way. We can think about how these vendors give us power to do the work that we do each day too, and we can be filled with gratitude.
The Vendy Awards are a chance for us to say thank you to the street vendors that help make our daily lives better and give us the fuel we need to do our work. So today I would like to encourage Astoria residents, and Queens residents at large, to vote for their favorite local street vendors here before Vendy Awards nominations close on June 15th. These vendors are a great engine that fuels us forward, that feeds a city, that helps make it all work.
The 9th annual Vendy Awards will take place on Saturday, September 7th at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Vote for your favorites by June 15th, 2013.