Nothing like a little public shaming to get a politician running for higher office to move on an issue! After the Urban Justice Center's Street Vendor Project had City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's face plastered on vendor vehicles across the city asking her for help reducing the heavy fines the city has been imposing on street vendors in recent years, the speaker finally relented. This morning she tweeted that more than two years after they were first introduced, two bills easing the burden on vendors would soon be brought to a vote by the City Council and would, in her words, "pass." Yay? Not so fast, says our billionaire mayor from Boston!
Before we get to Hizzoner's Quinn-block, here's Quinn's announcement of an impending vote:
.@nyccouncil will pass bills to cap vendor fines @ $500 & prohibit vending nr hosps, taxi stands & 20 feet of res bldg exits cc@vendorpower
— Christine C. Quinn (@ChrisCQuinn) February 21, 2013
As you can imagine, street vendors were very happy to hear the news that they might soon no longer be threatened by needlessly expensive "1,000 fines for things like being inches too close to a doorway or having a vending license in their pocket instead of around their necks, fines many say they simply can't pay "This is a great news for all vendors," said Aziz Rahmat, who sells coffee and donuts from a cart on 31st Street and Seventh Avenue. "Thanks to Speaker Quinn for moving this forward."
But before Rahmat and other street vendors could start toasting their cuppas, Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to rain on their parade. At a press conference today to unveil the city's first mobile food truck powered by compressed natural gas (more on that later!) the mayor was asked about Quinn's announcement:
Bloomberg: "Reducing the fines (on vendors) is one of the stupidest things I've heard." Says he'll veto Quinn bill.
— Tina Moore (@NYDNTinaMoore) February 21, 2013
While this isn't too surprising—Bloomberg has already budgeted for a squad of attack attorneys to collect unpaid fines from vendors—it certainly is depressing. We understand that Quinn and Bloomberg need to publicly distance themselves as the speaker shoots to replace the billionaire as Mayor, but it is unfortunate that hard working New Yorkers who spend their days working outside in the cold have to be the collateral damage.
Still, those fighting for the vendors aren't giving up hope. "Mayor Bloomberg has made it clear throughout his term how he feels about street vendors and other working people," Sean Basinsk, Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, tells us. "We're happy to see that Speaker Quinn supports small businesses and immigrant New Yorkers. We expect to have the full support of City Council."
If the bill passes and is vetoed by Bloomberg, perhaps it is about time his mug gets plastered around town?