Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Transportation Committee Overrides Mayor’s Fruit Stand Veto

As we have talked about here and here, Councilman John Lui’s Intro 699 would require an extra layer of bureaucratic oversight for the city’s fruit stands. The mayor vetoed the bill but the Council seems set on overriding that veto with alacrity. Though the transportation committee members – who all voted in favor of the override – claimed this was a simple bill that just asked the Department of Transportation to formulate fruit stand guidelines, we are quite skeptical of the legislation’s simplicity and public benefit.

It cannot be denied that in certain neighborhoods sidewalk congestion is a problem but the question is: will the additional regulation of stoop stands, with its new permitting fees, fix the issue without significantly harming minority small business? From our experience, this type of legislation permits inspectors to enlarge city coffers by burdening mom and pop retailers with hefty fines that are very hard to contest at the biased and dysfunctional Environmental Control Board (ECB).

We also find it quite interesting that Lui, the bill’s main sponsor, is also in favor of the stalled Intro 621, legislation that would increase the number of street vendor licenses and expand the areas of the city where these vendors could hawk their goods. If sidewalk congestion is of epidemic proportions as Lui suggests then why does he support a move that would add additional vendors to the street? The presence of additional vendor tables surely does more to hamper sidewalk access then a stoop stand that may be too far from a store front. Councilman Lui, why pick on the tax-paying, legitimate business while promoting those that truly add to congestion and pay no rent/taxes to the city?

Legislation such as Intro 699 will end up just like the numerous other regulations aimed at small business: forged with the intent of protecting the “public good” but, in reality, serving to further encumber an already overburdened small business sector. In the future, we’ll be writing more about how the tax and regulatory burden on NYC small business and its overall negative economic effects.