This is either a clear sign that City Council is starting to realize that New York is becoming a street food metropolis more and more every day or that a mayoral race is quickly approaching.
You may have noticed over the past few months a particular sign plastered on street vendor carts across the City. It stated: “Dear Speaker Quinn, Street vendors are small business owners. We receive $1,000 fines that we cannot afford. Please call a vote to lower the fines. A majority of City Council supports this idea. You have the power to make a difference. Please help us.”
The fines mentioned have been a target of discontent, tacked onto the vendors for senseless property and food license complications. And, with the insane cost of New York, it’s no surprise that the vendors would find issue with the huge fine. A $1,000 fee for setting up shop to make a living? Uh, yeah, they’re going to be pissed.
So, probably as a direct result of the public campaign against the mayoral prospect, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn changed her mind yesterday and shuffled along two significant bills that have been in the works for two years now to be voted on by the legislature. One bill will cap the fine at $500 (which is still a fair amount of money but slightly better than a $1,000) while the other bill maintains that street vendors have to keep their distance from hospitals, taxi hubs and residential buildings.
And the bills came just in time for Mayor Bloomberg to get really ticked off about it.
Coincidentally at a presser to introduce an electric-powered food truck, Gothamist reported that Mayor Bloomberg told reporters, ‘Reducing the fines is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.” Seriously, shifting the financial weight off the back of street vendors is one of the downright dumbest things this Mayor has heard. Ever. With that being said, the Mayor has vowed to veto the two bills put forth by his ‘inheritor,’ Ms. Quinn.
This back-and-forth parallels a recent expenditure set aside in the Mayor’s budget, which delegates around $600,000 to dispatch a team of street lawyers. Basically, this street cart Justice League will track down vendors who are on the legal fence and penalize the hell out of them to raise extra cash for the City. While it may seem bountiful for our balance sheets, it’s still evident from before that these vendors are unable to defend themselves in the face of high fines.
Expect to see more of these controversies pop up between Ms. Quinn and Mr. Bloomberg over the coming months as the Speaker escapes the shadow of the Mayor’s legacy. The Voice will keep you updated on the vote when it happens.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2013