In a protest in front of City Hall on Wednesday, August 22, the Street Vendor Project (SVP), a member-based group that fights for vendor rights, taped old tickets to a carpet and stepped on them, chanting, “Stomp out these fines.”
The SVP supports two bill before the City Council that would lower the maximum fine for vendors to $250, which was the old maximum before 2005. Under current law, vendors have to pay $1,000 after receiving six miscellaneous tickets over the course of six years, according to Derrick Wilmont, a board member of SVP.
Those minor fines include not wearing your identification badge in plain sight, having your table too close to curb, or not posting the prices for all products. Wilmont said there have been many times when he has seen fellow street vendors hit with six miscellaneous tickets in the same day.
“We are doing our best to support our families,” said Wilmont, a 50-year resident of Brooklyn. He said that most vendors don't have the $1,000 to pay after receiving the six tickets.
He also pointed out that many of the vendors are immigrants with families in their home countries relying on the money they make. “A lot of us here have families at home, so we have to try and support them, while we pay rent here and keep up our business,” Wilmont said.
Wilmont sought help from SVP eight years ago when he racked up over $12,000 in fines. The organization helped Wilmont and a judge dropped the fines down to just over $500. The reduction was essential for Wilmont, who had a large family to provide for in Park Slope.
Smiley, a street vendor for 14 years and a former drug dealer, said that he has been harassed by the NYPD more as a vendor than as a drug dealer. With the fines and pressure by police, Smiley said that he has had to look for other ways to provide for his family, including various part-time jobs.
“Vending used to be rewarding and exciting, but who wants to come to work everyday and have someone who is looking over your shoulder?” he asked. “No one wants to work in those conditions.”