Street vendors, selling everything from hot dogs to umbrellas and cell phone accessories, are an ingrained part of the New York City landscape. But on Thursday around 200 vendors, along with elected officials and advocates, gathered at City Hall to rally against excessive ticketing and thousands of dollars in fines.
The rally was a response to what they viewed as unfair ticketing practices — 26,000 tickets were handed out last year, many for minor infractions like parking too far from the curb or carrying vending licenses in their pocket instead of wearing it around their neck. Fines increase each time a ticket is issued. The first fine can be for $35 to $50, but subsequent fines can rise to as much as $1000.
There are over 10,000 street vendors in New York City, many who are recent immigrants or veterans. Each one operates like a small business, and vendors say the tough ticketing laws threaten their economic security.
Members of the City Council present at the event agreed. Councilman Charles Barron said, “Every $1,000 fine makes it harder to pay the rent or the mortgage. They created employment for themselves, they should be honored not punished.”
Several City Council members are sponsoring legislation to reduce ticketing and limit vendor fines to $250.
Requests for comment made to the Police and Health departments, which issue the tickets, were not returned.