Street vendors deserve a break –

Last Thursday, street vendors held a rally to protest exorbitant city fines. They’ve got a point.

Vendors selling food, art and miscellaneous goods have been a part of the New York streetscape for centuries; the founders of Macy’s, D’Agostino’s and Cohen’s Fashion Opticalrose from pushcart roots. How many New Yorkers buy their morning coffee from a cart?

Of course, not everyone selling on the street is a legal vendor — we’re not talking about the criminals selling pirated DVDs, but the men and women who operate under city licenses and pay city taxes. It’s these vendors, many of them immigrants, who see themselves as unfairly targeted by police and an assortment of agencies enforcing obscure city laws.

How many agencies? An alphabet soup: the DOT (Department of Transportation), DCA (Department of Consumer Affairs), NYPD, DOH (Department of Health), Parks and ECB (Environmental Control Board).

Estimates vary depending on just who you count as a street vendor, but it seems the city assesses millions a year of these fines, which typically start off as a $250 ticket but quickly escalate to $1,000. Collection is another matter: The Independent Budget Office estimates that only $800,000 was collected in 2008-9.

Brooklyn City Councilman Steve Levin has 35 colleagues signed on to his bills to reduce the fines. He claims the overriding issue is fairness. While setting penalties that fit the tiny scale of these businesses, he says, the city can still protect consumers. There’s no excuse for an enforcement approach that seems to mainly seek to maximize revenue.

Enforcement borders on the insane. Street vendors are harassed with summonses for inane violations that have little to do with health or safety — minor infractions such as failing to display a license, placing boxes beside the cart, being one foot too close to the crosswalk and so on.

Read the complete OpEd via Street vendors deserve a break –

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email FOMB08@GMAIL.COM.
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