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Vendors Celebrate As Council Votes to Cut Fines in Half

By Jill Colvin | February 27, 2013 6:00pm | Updated on February 28, 2013 12:20pm

CITY HALL — Vendors from the across the city gathered at City Hall Wednesday to celebrate as the City Council passed new legislation that will slash vending fines in half.

The new rules, which passed 44-3, will cut the maximum fine that can be levied against hot dog carts, halal stands and other vendors from $1,000 to $500 and will prevent fines from escalating unless vendors break the same rules twice.

"We've heard of people getting charged thousands of dollars in fines where they were 17 feet away from an entrance or an exit when they were supposed to be 20 feet away," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a press conference ahead of the vote, where she and other members argued the fines simply didn't fit the crimes.

City Councilman Stephen Levin, who lead the push for legislation, also argued that the vast majority of fines the city hands out are never paid because vendors simply can't afford to pay $1,000 them when they're making just $15,000 to $20,000 a year.

The city failed to collect a whopping $14.9 million of the $15.8 million vendors owed to the city from 2008-2009, the Speaker's office said.

The reduction was part of a package of bills that also bar vendors from operating in hospital no-standing zones, in taxi stands, as well as within 20 feet of residential building entrances and exits.

Vendors have long complained about being slapped with huge fines for minor violations, like keeping their licenses in jacket pockets instead of hung around their necks — and some had pasted photocopied pictures of Quinn's face on their carts in an organized campaign to pressure her to hold a vote.

The new rules were welcome news to vendors like Rogelio Gonzalez, who sells tacos from a cart at the corner of East 16th Street and Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, and paid a visit to City Hall to celebrate the vote.

In the past five-or-so years, he said, he'd had to pay at least four $1,000 tickets, making it even harder to support his wife and two sons.

"How do I make the money with all the money I pay to the city?" said Gonzalez, 45, who said that reducing the amount to $500 would make a huge difference.

"That's much better," he said.

But not everyone is pleased with the legislation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to veto the fine-slashing bill, which he slammed last week as "one of the stupider things I've ever heard" because, he argued, it would encourage vendors to break the rules.

Quinn said Wednesday that, if he does, the council will over-ride the veto.