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Mayor, Quinn At Odds Over Vote To Reduce Street Vendor Fines

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The City Council wants to make life easier for street vendors by reducing the size of fines levied against them by the city, but the move is not sitting well with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Food carts are a fixture on city streets, but vendors say they’re being squeezed by excessive fines handed out by the city.

"They are $1,000, sometimes, for minor violations, like having your license inside your jacket now that it’s cold, or being a inch too far away from the curb or a foot too close to the crosswalk," said Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project.

"Last time, when I renew my license, I paid $6,000 for the fine," said one vendor. "For two years, $6,000. It's huge money for us."

But now, some of that money will stay in vendors' pockets. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose face has been plastered on fliers attached to street carts across the city, announced Thursday that she'll advance legislation to cut the maximum fine in half, from $1,000 to $500.

"The guy or gal who makes one honest mistake, let’s not whack the heck out of them for no reason," Quinn said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who coincidentally was showing off a food truck Thursday powered by compressed natural gas, clearly disagrees, and has promised a veto.

"I think reducing the fines is one of the stupider things I've ever heard," Bloomberg said. "We want people to follow the rules. If you reduce the fines, they will follow them less. The complaint is they're not following them now. If anything, you should raise the fines."

The new legislation doesn't affect every type of fine. Health code violations, for instance, would be unaffected, as well as fines for operating without a license.

The legislation also creates certain new restrictions for vendors. No vendors would be allowed in taxi stands, near hospital no-standing zones, or within 20 feet of apartment building doors, and the legislation would create a new system to better track serial offenders.

The City Council will vote on the bills next Wednesday. Quinn didn't seem worried about a potential mayor veto.

"There’s never been a veto I haven’t overridden," she said.

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