NYC turns blind eye as migrants with babies sell fruit on dangerous highways
Some of New York City’s busiest highways and roads are drawing migrant moms so desperate to make a buck that they hawk mangoes and drinks in traffic — often with babies strapped to their backs.
Along the bustling, notoriously dangerous intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue in Queens on Friday, two young mothers who illegally migrated three months ago from Ecuador peddled cups of fruit for $5 a pop and bottles of water for a buck.
Maria, 20, had her year-old infant strapped to her back.
Veronica, 25, carried her 3-year-old daughter the same way, weaving around cars to score sales when traffic stopped for a red light.
“We don’t want to be on the street,” said Veronica.
“What we want in this country is a real job.”
“A lot of people who see us selling here take pictures and videos of us, and say ‘You can’t be here selling like this’ and ‘Not with your baby,’” added Veronica, who shares a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with five family members.
But “some days there is no one to leave them with … [and] if we don’t work, we can’t pay the rent [and buy] food … for the babies.”
Maria said she has little choice when the alternative is not working.
“We can’t find jobs — that’s why we are selling,” said Maria, who rents a single room at a Jamaica apartment with her sister.
“I don’t want to keep doing this. I want a real job — not this.”
Both women say they recently met selling fruit at the intersection and became friends.
They work three to four days a week, four to five hours at a time.
They said they typically spend $100 at a local market buying up three days worth of fruit to flip for profits, and usually sell 10 to 15 cups a day.
Whatever they can’t sell, they eat.
Along a ramp by the busy Van Wyck Expressway in Queens, near the Horace Harding Expressway, another Ecuadorian migrant, Llosa 39, was accompanied Wednesday by her 12-year-old son while selling cups of fruit for $5.
“It’s dangerous,” she said.
“It scares me for him and for me. But I need to do it to occupy my mind and earn money. Who is going to make money for us to have food if not me?”
Both arrived illegally in the U.S. a month ago.
Llosa said the child accompanies her because there’s no one else to care for him.
“We’re not doing anything bad,” insisted Llosa, who estimates earning about $70 a day in profits — provided she sells all $30 of fruit she purchases at local markets.
“We’re not robbing anyone.”
Over the past two weeks, Post reporters have also spotted women accompanied with kids selling fruit on the Harlem River Drive, FDR Drive and West Side Highway in Manhattan.
Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) said he sympathizes with the unlicensed fruit sellers but added they’re putting themselves and children at serious risk.
In a letter last week to Mayor Adams, he demanded the NYPD do a better job cracking down.
“These children are constantly exposed to toxic fumes and the possibility of a catastrophic accident that could kill or maim them and their families,” said Holden, adding he suspects organized gangs could be involved and taking advantage of the sellers.
All of the migrants interviewed by the Post insisted they were working independently.
The moderate Dem said he fired off the letter out of frustration after previously expressing his concerns in Aug. 29 letters to NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Jess Dannhauser but getting nowhere.
Sewell told Holden NYPD’s goal “is not to summons or arrest our way out of the issue, but rather gain voluntary compliance” by educating migrants and homeless people on the law and connecting them with city services.
The NYPD provided a similar answer to The Post in July when it exposed that the FDR Drive and other major New York City highways had suddenly become hotspots for predominately homeless panhandlers willing to risk their lives to solicit spare change from motorists.
However, Holden said the highway panhandling problem has since gotten much worse based on recent complaints he’s fielded from constituents.
He said he believes the recent mass influx of asylum-seeking migrants into the city spurred a rise in mango-selling moms and their kids working the roads, too.
Messages left with the Mayor’s Office and NYPD were not returned.