The NY Post reported yesterday that there is an effort afoot at the city council to give scofflaw peddlers a break: "These guys know how to drive a bargain. The City Council is in talks with the savviest hagglers in town -- street peddlers -- in an effort to get them to pay their fines, The Post has learned. Legislation quietly introduced this month by Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) would lower the maximum penalties for non-health-related summonses to $250 to encourage the sidewalk food and merchandise vendors to pay up."
So, let's get this straight. The council would be rewarding vendors for snubbing their noses at the law? "As it is now, if you are getting multiple fines of $1,000, it's particularly onerous and very difficult to get out from underneath this debt," Levin said. "We want to have vendors licensed and know who they are and what they are up to."
But those two paired sentences above don't make much sense together-and we know what they are up to: not paying their fines. As far as onerous is concerned, what about the tax paying stores that these vendors set up shop right in front of? Talk about onerous! How's trying to compete against a vendor selling the same goods right in front of your store-but doing so absent all of the store's hefty overhead.
That's what is happening all over the city-as the picture above dramatically makes clear. What you see there is one of the city's vaunted "Green Cart," carts that have been licensed as an antidote to the lack of fresh produce in so-called underserved areas. The one in the picture-operating daily from 9 AM to 8 Pm between East 16th Street and Foster Avenue is less than one block away from a green grocer at 1521ewkirk Avenue. In similar fashion, two other carts merging into one giant one between Flatbush and Nostrand Aves, operates 20 hours a day just across the sidewalk in the same block.
And the city council wants to bail out the lawbreakers? Give us a break! And if you look carefully at the pictures, you'll see multiple violations in these over sized cannibals. But you will also notice the official, "Green Cart," umbrella. In this 70th precinct that was designated as an undeserved area, we are seeing green carts placed right in front of existing produce stores-as we predicted when the law was passed.
And when it was passed, we were told that there would be a review of the law's effectiveness-something that is now long past its sell by date. In spite of the hardships being experienced by food retailers, the city council is spending its precious political capital on making the plight of the nose thumbing vendors less onerous: "As The Post reported last month, many vendors say they have no intention of ever paying. Often, they let their licenses expire because of the debt and continue to operate using licenses of others. A related bill introduced by Levin will prevent compounding of unpaid fines that raises the cost of penalties the longer they go unpaid and can quickly leave a vendor deep in debt. Keeping fines from rising would hopefully get more vendors to pay up, he said. The bills, which are supported by the Urban Justice Center's Street Vendor Project, already have 15 co-sponsors and will be discussed in hearings next year, Levin said."