The Street Vendor Project (SVP) launched a public ad campaign today in an effort to lower the fines that vendors have been fighting for two years. At present, the city's street vendors have to struggle with what they call "exuberant and excessive" fines for minor infractions. Though legislation to reduce the fines has support and has been sitting in the Council for two years, there has not yet been a vote scheduled.
In 2006, the fine cap for street vendor violations was raised from a maximum of $250 for up to six violations to $1000. SVP board member, Hakim Abdurraheem says that fines like this are too much for small business owners. With these high fines for small infractions, like parking inches too close to a building entrance, Abdurraheem fears some vendors will be forced to go out of business. Maria Leone, a street vendor who sells scarves and gloves in SoHo, said "We just work to pay tickets now."
Campaigners are hoping that by posting ads on as many pushcarts around the city as possible, they can attract Council Speaker Quinn's attention and move this legislation to vote. According to the SVP's senior board member James Williams, vendors have already received support from 36 of the 51 council members—all they need is a vote to lower the fines. For reasons unknown, Quinn has delayed the vote on this legislation, which vendors have been working nearly six years to rectify.
We asked Quinn's spokesperson why the bills haven't been brought to a vote, and were told simply, "We’re reviewing the legislation." The legislation was introduced in 2010. Williams said, "[Quinn] is a decent person but it's disappointing that she hasn't scheduled the vote." He added that he would be in support for Quinn in the mayoral race next year "if she passes the legislation."