European immigrants landed in the Big Apple before settling in the heartland, and later Irish, Italians, Chinese and Puerto Ricans founded businesses and communities that have shaped the city into what it is today. Yet in recent years, New York has become less welcoming to its more entrepreneurial immigrants. Today’s New York Times discusses the byzantine system of fines and regulations that is putting street vendors, most of whom are recent immigrants, out of business:
For years, street vendors and their advocates have bristled at the penalties the city imposes. Hundreds of vendors say they have been forced out of business by the steep fines, which can quickly reach $1,000 each for even the least serious violations, advocates say. . . .
“The vast majority of tickets we see are for breaking one of these million rules they have: You’re a foot too close to the fire hydrant, a foot too close to the crosswalk, the table is too long,” said Mr. Basinski, who has been lobbying to change the fine structure for several years. “You can very quickly be at that $1,000 level for every ticket.”
Fortunately, new bills are being discussed that would change the way these fines are allocated and reduce their number, removing vendors from the burden of multiple thousand-dollar fines for such infractions as poor table placement.
Yet even if the bills pass, the larger problem remains. Like many deep blue cities, New York’s regulations make it extremely difficult to start new businesses, especially for those without the connections and money to navigate the city’s extensive bureaucracy. And while vendors operating on crowded streets do raise some serious issues, immigrants desperately need the work, and the city needs them to make a living and build new businesses.
The city’s goal should be to create conditions in which undercapitalized entrepreneurs can flourish. These are the people whose success will build the next generation of successful New Yorkers. The pushcart peddler is an American hero and our legislators should be looking for ways to promote rather than to punish them. Instead it sometimes seems like city officials forgot how New York grew and are trying to crush as much economic activity as they possibly can.