Wednesday is a big day for New York City’s street vendors. After months of stalling, the speaker of the City Council (and mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn has finally promised to bring to a vote legislation to reduce and simplify fines imposed on vendors. This vote comes after years of campaigning and lobbying by the Street Vendor Project, including months of plastering posters with Speaker Quinn’s face on carts across the city to pressure her to call the vote.
The two pieces of legislation originally approved by City Council committees in April 2012 would reduce the maximum fine for repeat violations to $250 from $1,000, and would clarify the fine structure so that only repeated violations of the same type would incur graduated fines (currently, any six violations within a two year period result in the maximum $1,000 fine).
But when Speaker Quinn announced last Wednesday via social media that she would call the vote, she said only that fines would be lowered to $500, and made no mention of the second bill. This may be part of a compromise version of the bill – something she alluded to when we spoke to her on Groundhog Day – but the City Council has still not posted the final draft of the bill(s) to be voted on, or their agenda for Wednesday’s session.
Quinn is confident that the bill (whatever the final version looks like) will pass the City Council, and she says she will be able to override the mayor’s veto, something he promised to do at, ironically, an event to unveil a new natural gas-powered food truck (alongside natural gas mogul, fracking advocate, and OSU Cowboys superfan T. Boone Pickens). The Street Vendor Project will be out in force at City Hall Wednesday to show their support for lowering the fines, and we’re looking forward to joining them (come show your support at 1pm).
Lowering fines will lead to less hardship for vendors, more opportunities for them to grow their small businesses, and even more revenue for the city. On our Food Cart Tour, we discuss in detail the regulations and fines that street vendors have to navigate, and our visitors are shocked to learn that tickets can be up to $1,000 for minor violations, the vast majority of which have little or nothing to do with public health and safety. These hefty fines are pernicious and unfair (we discussed their specific impacts in an earlier post), and they can and do put many vendors out of business. Let’s hope the City Council does the right thing and puts an end to the $1,000 ticket.