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Vendors fight to get non-health fines lowered

April 24, 2012 7:05:44 PM PDT
There is an important hearing Tuesday for New York street vendors.

The Department of Consumer Affairs committee will listen to two bills aimed at reducing fines levied against the vendors.

The fines are for non-health or safety-related violations, which run as high as $1,000. Advocates for the vendors say it's enough to run some of them out of business.

Each day, vendors cook food and sell coffee to hungry New Yorkers in need of a quick bite. But the heavy fines are stifling their ability to make a living.

Currently, it is $50 for the first violation. Then, it jumps to $1,000 after five violations. Back in 2006, the fines began at $25 and only went as high as $250.

"Way too high," vendor Catalin Manmanole said. "You know, some people, they get fined $1,000. I've been lucky. I didn't have any fines so far. But they're too high. We're going to go out of business."

The fines are related to violations, like parking too close to a curb, parking too close to the entrance of a business or failing to display a license or menu prices. The Street Vendor Project has been rallying against the higher fines, and wants to see them reduced to the 2006 levels.

"The majority of vendors don't make that much, and they're usually the sole bread winners from from their families," the project's Matthew Shapiro said. "And a $1,000 fine really takes a huge chunk out of their business."

The first piece of legislation asks for the maximum fine to be put back down to $250. The second bill calls for a change in the multiple offense schedule, meaning a vendor should only be subjected to a graduated penalty when they commit the same violation over and over again.

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