STREET VENDING & $1,000 FINES
While street vendors have been a hallmark of New York City since the 1800’s, there are many systemic obstacles to their success. Every day, thousands of vendors navigate regulations that are both arbitrary and difficult to understand. Yet when vendors break them, they face exorbitant penalties of as much as $1,000 per violation. The vending fine structure is an example of economic injustice which punishes our smallest of small businesses – the very immigrants and entrepreneurs our city should be helping – more harshly than large, multinational corporations.
Currently, the vast majority of vending violations are subject to a graduated penalty system which increases fines for each subsequent violation within two years. The first violation within each two year period is punishable by a fine of between $25 and $50; the second by a fine of between $50 and $100; the third by a fine of between $100 and $250; and the fourth or subsequent violation by a fine of between $250 and $1,000; fines can be up to $1,000 each thereafter.
To illustrate this, imagine a vendor who receives one violation for selling merchandise from a table longer than 8 feet. Months later, the vendor receives a citation for vending near a bus stop. The second violation is treated as a repeat offense, subject to an escalated fine, even though it is the vendors’ first time vending near a bus stop! Such a system threatens our most vulnerable entrepreneurs and their ability to provide basic life necessities for themselves and their families.
PROPOSED CHANGES TO ADMINISTRATIVE CODE
In November 2010, the Street Vendor Project embarked upon a campaign to amend the Administrative Code of the City of New York called the Lower the Fines Campaign.
We have proposed two separate but related amendments to the Administrative Code. First, the maximum vending fine should return to $250, as it was before 2006. A large proportion of NYC vendors are immigrant entrepreneurs struggling to earn an honest living for their families; they are already in a precarious economic position, particularly due to the economic downturn. If the maximum mandated fines are not reduced, then at very least Administrative Law Judges should have full discretion to issue minimum penalties where appropriate.
Second, we wish to amend the Administrative Code to make it clear that separate and unrelated offenses do not count as subsequent violations for the purposes of the “Multiple Offense Schedule.” A vendor should only be subject to a graduated penalty when committing the exact same violation. With this change, vendors who knowingly and repeatedly violate the same section of law will continue to be given harsh penalties, but first-time offenders will be treated more fairly, as they should.
Past Campaigns – COMING SOON