The city's Independent Budget Office has issued its first-ever report on street vendors, and the title should give you some indication of its contents: "Street Vendor Regulations Are Costly, Confusing, and Leave Many Disgruntled." The report [pdf] finds that $14.9 million in unpaid vendor fines covering 2008 and 2009 remain uncollected. The city is spending an estimated $7.4 million a year on vendor-related expenses, but revenues from fees, licenses and fines totaled only $1.4 million last year. Should the city send goons to collect? The IBO concludes that the revenue gap isn't entirely the vendors' fault—the patchwork of rules are complicated, and the fines onerous, especially if a $50-a-day food vendor has his license suspended.
"I think the report is misleading," Matthew Shapiro, legal director of the Street Vendor Project, tells Crain's. "It talks about vendors not paying their fines, but vendors who have outstanding violations cannot renew their licenses." Some fines run as high as $1,000! You can peruse the entire report at your leisure, but Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, summed it up nicely: "There is no doubt that the current tangle of street regulations serves neither the vendors nor the communities where they do business."