VETU stands for Vamos en Todo Unidos, or “United in Everything,” and speaks to the following vision: to utilize the power of collectivization to create a culture of solidarity and inclusion among street food vendors and their surrounding community through the development of an integrated cooperative network in order to achieve the goal of self-management to offer greater autonomy and individual freedom. VETU is the thesis of Cristina Handal and I, with research and design taking place over the course of our final year in the M.S. Design and Urban Ecologies program at Parsons School of Design at The New School.
I first became interested in the idea of cooperatives through the lens of housing with focus on the affordable housing crisis in New York. Throughout my research, I came to realize that the lack of affordable housing is nearly inseparable from the jobs crisis, and since housing and production were invariable linked, he looked toward researching economic processes and the power of capital. Realizing that raising the scale of the individual, to that of the collective, offers power as an equal alternative to capital, my focus became about looking at barriers to collectivization, issues of power, control, ownership, exclusion, temporality and the role of the individual in semi-autonomous economic, political and social enclaves.
Over the course the project, I became increasingly interested in the idea of linking housing and production through a network of worker-owned businesses and limited equity cooperatives, using people and place-based strategies dependent on the population served. Cristina spent her research learning about the those that feed and serve us on the go, on the streets, in all the neighborhoods of this city knowing there was much more to learn about that metallic extrusion on the sidewalk. As Cristina’s research became more and more intertwined with this concept, we decided to join forces to create VETU.
See the presentation below. It begins by following a day in the life of a typical street food vendor in New York City, revealing many social, economic and political precarities. It further examines the dynamics of the ‘commissary,’ the location where vendors store, clean and stock their carts. We then presented Vamos Unidos, a non-profit collective of street food vendors based in the Bronx that advocates for street vendor rights. Our proposal is to use the existing practices of the collective to form a worker and housing hybrid cooperative of vendors and details how that would work.