On Thursday, NYC street vendors marched in protest what they describe as unfair fines the city has imposed against them by The New York Police Department. The march began today at noon on the steps of City Hall.
The demonstration called,"1,000 Vendors Against $1,000 Fines", was organized by the Street Vendors Project, ¡Vamos Unidos! and the 125th Merchants Association. The vendors are asking for a change in the fine structure system arguing that $1,000 in fines is an exorbitant amount of money and most of the violations are unwarranted effecting 20,000 vendors in the five boroughs, according to the Street Vendors Project.
According the Street Vendors Project, "the vending fine structure is an example of economic injustice which punishes our smallest of small businesses – the very immigrants and entrepreneurs our city should be helping – more harshly than large, multinational corporations."
Street vendors say they are unfairly fined for minor violations such as carrying a license in their pocket instead of around their necks or being one foot too close to the crosswalk, according to Metro. They say small fines snowball to become $1,000 penalties, putting vendors out of work.
Ydanis Rodriguez, a New York City Council Member for District 10, attended the rally and showed support via Twitter.
The City Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus wrote a letter to the Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Dan Garodnick, the co-chairs of the caucus, Robert Jackson and Fernando Cabrera, asking them to reduce the financial burden of these fines. The minority council is asking the fines be reduced to $250 instead.
The letter states:
"This Caucus believes that the current fines limit the prosperity and entrepreneurship of vendors who contribute to this City’s economic prosperity. It is our responsibility to ensure that vendors can operate and support their families legally in the City of New York. The hearing that we recommend will allow us all to gain a better understanding of how these fines have negatively impacted the viability of street vendor business"
“Why is it that when a street vendor parks his cart an inch too far from the curb, he’s hit with a $1,000 fine?” asked Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center in Manhattan, which organized the rally, according The New York Times. Mr. Basinski contrasted vendor fines with the $150 traffic tickets and $250 violations meted out to residents who fail to curb their dogs.
According to The Street Vendor Project, the struggle continues but they will keep trying to pass the legislation.