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Quinn, Bloomberg Clash Over Plan to Slash Food Cart Fines

By Jill Colvin | February 21, 2013 8:54pm

CITY HALL — After years of complaints from city hot dog and halal cart vendors, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced plans Thursday to slash "punitive" vendor fines in half — an idea the mayor promptly slammed as "stupid."

The new legislation, which will be voted on by the council next Wednesday, will lower the maximum fines that can be levied against vendors from $1,000 to $500 and will prevent fines from escalating unless vendors break the same rules again.

“The legislative package the Council will pass next week will ease the financial burden placed on street vendors and will clarify City regulations on where vendors can operate,” Quinn said in a statement. 

The measures will also bar vending near hospital no-standing zones and taxi stands, as well as within 20 feet of residential building entrances and exits.

To pressure Quinn to bring the bills to vote, vendors across the city had been pasting photocopied pictures of her face on their carts to complain about the fines, which are often written for minor violations, like setting up inches too close to a doorway or keeping their licenses in jacket pockets instead of hung around their neck.

“Street vendors are hardworking men and women who serve their local communities and make this city great, and they deserve the support of city government," said Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, which led the push.

But the move sparked outrage from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who vowed to veto the bill.

"I think reducing the fines is one of the stupider things I've ever heard," he told reporters during an unrelated press conference, arguing that lowering fines will only encourage bad behavior.

"We want people to follow the rules. If you reduce the fines, they will follow them less," he said. "If anything, you should raise the fine."

The bill has enough council support to override a mayoral veto, based on the members who have signed on so far.