Street Vendors Rally Against City Fines They Call Excessive

Street vendors across the city are becoming increasingly angry about what they consider excessive fines for minor violations.

Last Thursday, about 100 street vendors staged a rally outside of City Hall to support proposed legislation that would lower vendor fines, DNAinfo reported. Some vendors said that they have received fines of up to $1,000 for infractions such as having their vendor licenses in their pockets instead of around their necks, or leaving their carts to go to the bathroom.

DNAinfo interviewed a Senegalese man who said he paid more than half of his annual vending income in fines.

Of his $10,000 annual vending salary, Cisse Mustafa claimed he has paid over $5,000 the past several years in fines to the city — all for what he said were unwitting mistakes like keeping his license in his pocket instead of around his neck, and for parking too close or too far from the sidewalk.

Mustafa spoke up at a rally on the steps of City Hall Thursday, along with hundreds other street vendors who decried the $1,000 fines they face minor infractions.

“We can get fined for anything,” said Mustafa, 48, a Senegalese immigrant who sells handbags and purses on 51st Street and Seventh Avenue. “People think we make money, but we don’t make much.”

Many of the vendors are immigrants. At the rally, the Street Vendor Project distributed handouts offering statistical information about vendors, The Epoch Times reported.

The Street Vendor Project handout, Vendor Power, is in five languages, including Chinese, Farsi, and Spanish. More than 8 out of 10 vendors in Lower Manhattan are born outside the United States, according to the document, while the first language for 8 out of 10 is not English.

In 2010, Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin proposed a bill that would lower the maximum fine from $1,000 to $250. He also proposed a measure that would increase the maximum fine only if the vendor was guilty of repeating the same offense. The two bills received little attention from the Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs, but the recent rally sought to convince the committee to reconsider.

Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who heads the committee that initially dismissed Levin’s proposals, said that it will review the measures again. The bills already have the support of Councilwoman Ydanis Rodriguez, who attended the rally and urged her fellow council members to support the propositions.

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