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FYI: Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra told a City Council hearing this week that the controversial laws governing the licensing of street vendors are far too complicated and need to be revamped. Vendors pay $200 a year to get or renew a license, with the number capped at 853–the same as it was in 1979. License violations land up to $1,000 fines. In 1993, Mayor Giuliani launched an aggressive enforcement effort that led to charges that the administration was unfairly targeting black vendors in black neighborhoods at the urging of white storeowners. It also led to a successful freedom of speech lawsuit filed by a group of street artists. Vendors continue to complain that compliance with the law is nearly impossible due to the cap on licenses. Check out Hilary Russ’s article in the City Limits archives dissecting how the effort to run vendors off the streets actually hurt storeowners. [4/9/03]

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