The easiest example of the system being unfairly stacked against NYC street vendors is this: vending fines for the most minor violations (like having a cooler poking out from underneath your cart or placing your table more than 18 inches from the curb) can cost up to $1,000. While no senior executives at Lehman, Bear Stearns or AIG has had to pay one cent for their role in the worldwide financial crisis, hard-working, tax-paying licensed vendors are required to pay $1,000 every day in New York City. When we tell people this, they simply don’t believe it — and yet we see the affected families in our office all the time. We even made a short video about some of them.
But the news is not all bleak! Council Member Stephen Levin from Brooklyn has sponsored two bills that would reduce the vending fines to pre-2005 levels. Intros 434 and 435, which now each have 15 co-sponsors at City Council, would not only provide relief to street vendors during difficult times. As the NY Post pointed out this week, it would also allow the city to collect more revenue, because vendors would be able to pay their fines, rather than them going into default. Sounds like a “win,win” proposition to us. We’ll be writing letters and getting signatures soon, but for now, please friend our “Lower the Fines” Facebook page here to stay updated on our progress.