Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vendors Not Good for NY's Economy!

Crain's is reporting on an IBO report that states that street vending is no boon for the city's economy: "First budget office report on economic impact of street vendors finds no one is satisfied by current licensing system. Plus, cost of enforcing regulations on peddlers far exceeds income from licenses and fines."

Well, when you charge so little for a license, and you fail to enforce the laws because of bureaucratic confusion, this doesn't come as a surprise: "The city's Independent Budget Office issued its first ever report on street vendors, but highlighted a number of troublesome statistics, including that nearly $15 million in unpaid vendor fines covering 2008 and 2009 remain uncollected. The impetus for the study, according to an IBO spokesman, was to provide facts to a heated debate in which community groups and merchants have called for a curtailment of street vendors, while advocacy groups maintain vendors are being unfairly persecuted. According to the study, the city spent $7.4 million in fiscal year 2009 on enforcement and regulation of vendors and took in just $1.4 million in revenues from fees and fines."

Everyone agrees that the current enforcement regime is totally broke: "The report concludes that no one is satisfied with the current system of licensing and regulating vendors, that there are too many city agencies involved and that vendors are also hurt by the current situation. Business leaders agree. Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which has been a vocal critic of vendors said, “There is no doubt that the current tangle of street regulations serves neither the vendors nor the communities where they do business.”

As we expected, the report demonstrates the contempt that the administration has for the tax paying store owners-as vendor fines have declined dramatically in the Bloomberg years, while store and restaurant violation have skyrocketed: "According to the report, there are also fewer summonses or violations issued to vendors. In 1995, more than 45,000 summonses were issued compared with 20,000 in 2009....In addition, there are just 33 uniformed police officers, all stationed from 59th Street to lower Manhattan, who are dedicated to enforcing street peddler regulations."

We are working with the city council to address this collapse of enforcement and the nonsensical system of licensing. That we have to push so hard, is indicative of the unremitting negative attitude that the current mayor has to store owners-and the total lack of concern for remedying the unlevel playing field. With Wal-Mart banging on the door, and small business suffering, it's past time for the city council to address this dysfunctional situation.


The NY Post also weighs in on the vendor mess: "If you're going to have violations [and] you don't collect on them, they become somewhat meaningless," IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky said. He also said the vendors cost the city at least $7.4 million in 2009, most of which is the cost of funding the NYPD's street-peddling enforcement unit that operates south of 59th Street in Manhattan.

Part of the problem, Turetsky said, is that street vendors exist in a messy web of bureaucracy: The Consumer Affairs and Health departments license them, the NYPD, Health and several other agencies issue fines, the Department of Finance collects those payments and the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings makes judgments on appeals."