Last month, the city’s Independent Budget Office discovered that street
vendors owe the city $15 million in unpaid fines for violations. The New York Post says the city council is so desperate to get vendors to pay up, it’s considering a measure to reduce penalties for street vendors. The logic goes that vendors aren’t paying the current fines because they’re too high, so if they get slapped with smaller penalties, they’ll be more likely to pay something.
Now, instead of requiring vendors to pay several hefty fines (which apparently just causes the vendors to ignore the fines and work under black market licenses), the city council wants to cap “non-health-related summonses” to $250.
Councilman Stephen Levitt, who introduced the bill, told the Post: “As it is now, if you are getting multiple fines of $1,000, it’s particularly onerous and very difficult to get out from underneath this debt.”
Levitt introduced another bill, which the Post says “will prevent compounding of unpaid fines that raises the cost of penalties the longer they go unpaid” (which basically sounds like he wants to ban charging interest on unpaid fines).
The Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, a street vendor advocacy group, is of course on board, and the bills have 15-co-sponsors that expect to discuss the measures in committee hearings next year.
The city’s “something’s better than nothing” approach makes some sense. The IBO report found that the city spends almost $7.4 million on enforcement alone and collected less than $900,000 in fines. Not exactly a great situation when the city’s facing a multimillion-dollar deficit (but no falafel shortage, thank God).