TIMES SQUARE — Times Square street vendors who complain they are getting crushed under the mayor's campaign against topless panhandlers saw the number of tickets handed out by the NYPD quadruple at the end of the summer, according to city data.
The number of tickets issued to Halal carts, hot dog stand and pashmina sellers in the area went from 99 in July to 449 in September — a 435 percent jump over three months, according to data obtained by DNAinfo.
The ticket blitz came as Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton ordered police to crack down on "desnudas" and costumed characters in order regulate commerce along the area's pedestrian plazas.
“Bratton has defined vendors as part of the problem with respect to Broken Windows and this is the latest incarnation of it," said Sean Basinski, the director of the Street Vendor Project. "Vendors are not broken windows; they are small business that are contributing to their neighborhoods."
Tickets written in September in Times Square accounted for more than 50 percent of all violations written by police citywide — up from around 18 percent a month earlier, according to records from the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, the court where the tickets street vendors get from police and the Health Department are filed.
The ticketing barrage, previously reported by DNAinfo, came weeks after politicians launched a push to clean up the square, spurred on by days of tabloid headlines that denounced the topless women who work for tips.
"We became collateral damage in a way," said James King, 64, a disabled veteran who sells hats and scarves on the corner of 44th Street and Broadway.
By Oct. 16, Times Square vendors had already received more tickets than in July and August combined.
Police have cited vendors for a variety of infractions — selling too close to building entrances or less than 10 feet of a crosswalk, for being in wrong zones at the wrong times and for being too close to fire hydrants among a handful of other violations, data show.
At a recent Midtown North Community Council meeting, a group of street vendors showed up to denounce the ticketing surge.
"We definitely didn't receive so many tickets before, it's happened recently," said Mei Fan Shi, 49, through a translator, who sells animal sculptures.
"We've had loose enforcement of the rules for a very long time," said Inspector John Hart, the commanding officer of the precinct, who earlier told DNAinfo that the recent bump in ticketing was in response to calls from politicians to clean up the square. "We're trying to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street."
While police maintain that they're just enforcing the rules more strictly than before, many vendors say that they know the rules and that they're being ticketed incorrectly.
Some vendors who were ticketed for being too close to a fire hydrant said they were on on the sidewalk, adding that the rule only applies to vendors parked in the street. Other said they were ticketed for being in front of an entrance when they were 3 feet to the side of it.
"'This is a legal spot!'" Halal food vendor Eslam Abdo, 28, pleaded during a recent encounter with police, he said. He and the other vendors at his truck have been hit with around $1,000 in fines in recent weeks, he said.
Despite the flurry of tickets that have nicked away at his monthly earnings, Adbo said he had no other choice but to continue to come to work and risk more fines.
"I got a family, two sons, a wife. What can I do?"
The Police department did not respond to a request for comment.