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Cosmos Overshadowed As Soccer Expands In New York

Cosmos Overshadowed As Soccer Expands In New York



Pele of the New York Cosmos gestures during a press conference at a New York Hotel on Thursday, Sept. 29, 1977. It was Pele’s final media session prior to the Pele farewell game and his subsequent retirement from professional soccer. (AP Photo/Ira Schwarz)

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INTRO: New York is getting a second team in Major League Soccer. Reports say that New York City FC — short for football club — will join the New York Red Bulls in the league in 2016. The new team is backed by one of the biggest names in European soccer. But Max Rosenthal reports that the news has some New York fans wondering if a famous name in American soccer is being forgotten.

NARR: For decades, there was no bigger name in American soccer than the New York Cosmos.

(Fade up AMBI from 1976 game “At forward, number 10, Pele” Fade under at applause.)

The Cosmos brought the Brazilian and other world legends to play in the North American Soccer League. The team sold out 76,000-seat Giants Stadium. And now the team is back. In August, the Cosmos start playing in the top minor league in the country. It’s soccer’s version of Triple A baseball. And the team’s history is still so powerful, it attracts fans who weren’t even born the last time the Cosmos played.

ACT: Lucas Vasquez, I’m from Long Island. Carlos Mieles, I’m from New Jersey.

Vasquez and Mieles are freshmen at NYU. Their families are from South America, and they grew up cheering for teams from Argentina and Ecuador.

But they don’t watch MLS. Vasquez and Mieles never connected with the New York Red Bulls, who have played in the league for nearly twenty years. Vasquez says the Cosmos history is a powerful draw.

VASQUEZ: What the Cosmos can bring to the table is they already an identity within New York. Not some foreign company or owner that wants to promote their selves or their own brand. This is an identity that took root within New York and already has its roots their and has people remember that. So this is really a New York based club.

Compare that to the Red Bulls, who play in New Jersey and are owned by the energy drink company of the same name. Vasquez and Mieles are so excited about the Cosmos that they’ve organized a Latin American-style fan group called La Banda del Cosmos. They say they’ve already got about 50 regular members, and they’re expecting big things, both from the group and the team itself.

VASQUEZ: I can see Cosmos really playing in the one of the highest levels, signing players from all over the world and acting like a European club.

For years, MLS wanted to put a second team in the New York area. And when the Cosmos reformed in 2010, many fans thought the team was the obvious choice. Vasquez admits he’s disappointed the Cosmos won’t be in MLS. But he thinks that could change.

VASQUEZ: I think what the Cosmos can do right now is show the league that this is an opportunity they can’t miss.

But that may just be wishful thinking. Mark Noonan was an executive vice president at MLS. Now he runs a sports marketing company in Connecticut. He says it was the stars that made the old Cosmos great. Without those big-name players, the new Cosmos can’t live up to the team’s history.

NOONAN: Now it’s just a name. It’s a name that thirty years later still has recognition amongst the, I would say, hardcore soccer aficionados in this country and perhaps outside of this country. But most kids under the age of 20 don’t have a clue. So trying to recapture what it was is impossible.

BELL: I think it’s like, thirty years later, seeing a woman you went out with in high school. You’re going to be disappointed.

That’s Jack Bell. He runs the soccer blog at the New York Times, and he covered the Cosmos in their glory days. He agrees that the Cosmos name is the new team’s biggest asset. And the team’s biggest moneymaker is the merchandise, like jerseys, that they sell worldwide. For that reason, MLS probably isn’t the best fit.

BELL: You know, the structure’s a little bit different. If they went into MLS, they wouldn’t own their own marketing rights, and that’s a big deal to them right now. It’s weird, it’s kind of the merchandise before the team.

So instead of the Cosmos, MLS is reportedly turning to a European powerhouse.

(Fade up Aguero goal ambi to full at “Aguero…he can win it…Oh! He’s won the title, surely, for Manchester City!” then fade out)

Last year, Manchester City won the English Premier League, the most popular soccer league in the world. Their owner, Sheikh Mansour, is an Abu Dhabi royal. He’s pumped billions into Manchester City over the past five years. And according to published reports, he’ll be the money man behind New York City FC. It’s chance for MLS to bring in not only a big name and big money, but also a big fan base that doesn’t ordinarily watch American soccer.

(Ambi from bar underneath)

The Mad Hatter Saloon is the official hangout of New York’s Manchester City fans. On Tuesday afternoon, a few of them gathered to watch their team’s latest Premier League game. Right now, MLS isn’t high on their agenda.

Frank Desanto is a native New Yorker. He says he never saw the Red Bulls as a New York team.

DESANTO: They play in Jersey. So it’s like, I’m a city kid. I want a team that plays in New York.

Michael Warren is coming from slightly farther away. He’s originally from Manchester, and he’s been a City fan his entire life.

WARREN: Well, longer than you’ve been alive. Over 50 years.

He comes in from Connecticut nearly every weekend to watch Manchester City, but he rarely watches MLS games. That is set to change.

WARREN: It’ll be nice to have a City-connected team playing in the States, absolutely. I was talking to a couple of friends at the weekend and we said that we would probably go to see most of the games.

It’s proof of the drawing power that that Manchester City brand can bring to MLS. But Jack Bell of the New York Times says the new team’s management can’t assume that the brand will do all of the work by itself.

BELL: They seem to think that they’re in Europe. And they’re not, and they still need to sell this team. If they think they can do the same things that they do in the Premier League, I think they’re going to be sorely disappointed.

MLS is expected to formally announce the new team within two weeks. But whatever happens, New York City FC won’t start play until 2016. It will take that long to sort out issues around a proposed new stadium for the team in Queens.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.

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Gillibrand Attacks Looming Food Stamp Cuts

Gillibrand Attacks Looming Food Stamp Cuts

Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to media at the Union Square Pavilion on May 3, 2013. Gillibrand and anti-hunger advocates spoke out against proposed cuts to federal food stamp programs. (Max J. Rosenthal/Uptown Radio)

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INTRO: The city’s Independent Budget Office says there are currently almost 2 million people in New York on food stamps. That’s nearly a quarter of the city’s populations. Republicans in Congress are proposing cuts to those benefits. New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand opposes them. Max Rosenthal went to hear her speak about the farm bill this morning.

NARR: The Union Square farmers’ market is one of at least 50 around the city that accept food stamps. Since 2009, people on food stamps have recieved more money thanks to the federal stimulus package. That money runs out in November, and benefits for the average family will drop by 30 to 50 dollars per month. Senator Gillibrand says the effects on New Yorkers will be severe.

GILLIBRAND: It means one less week of food on the table each and every month for the typical family, or 70 million less meals per year right here in New York City.

Roger Cass is shopping at the market using food stamps. He says the cuts will be a big problem for him.

CASS: It will, it will, it will. Especially for someone like me who’s — I mean, at 66 it’s unlikely that I’ll find a job.

Cass depends on food stamps to eat nutritious meals. He goes to food kitchens about three times a week and he often finds junk food or leftovers. At Union Square, he can use what’s called Electronic Benefits Transfer to get tokens that farmers treat as cash.

CASS: I’d say my EBT card probably covers half of what I spend on food.

But as Congress starts debating a new farm bill next week, there may be even more cuts in store.

GILLIBRAND: Some of my Republican colleagues are planning to take it one step further by proposing amendments that would cuts tens of billions of dollars more from the food stamp program and make fewer families eligible for this benefit.

For now, no one knows for sure what cuts may pass, but they are likely to be severe. The budget that passed the House of Representatives gave over $100 billion dollars less for food stamps over the next decade.

Joel Berg is the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. He says that even though food stamps are a small part of the overall farm bill, cutting them will have a disproportionately large effect.

BERG: People are shocked enough at the existing cuts, and they’re just flabbergasted that fat cats in Washington are considering taking even more food away from low-income people.

The Senate Agriculture committee starts debate on the bill next week. Gillibrand’s staff says they expect a vote in the full Senate within the next two weeks.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.

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Obama Administration Reacts to Syria Crossing ‘Red Line’

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HOST: Yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made what seemed like a dramatic announcement about the civil war in Syria. He said that the US now has evidence the Syrian government used sarin, a powerful chemical weapon. The US has resisted getting deeply involved in the war in Syria. But President Obama has said that if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, that would cross a “red line” and the US would consider a wider range of options. That could include a military intervention.

Michael Cohen is a fellow at The Century Foundation. He says that despite two years of war and thousands of deaths in Syria, the use of chemical weapons would be a dangerous new development.

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City’s New Recycling Program Takes Effect

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HOST: Mayor Bloomberg announced the largest expansion to the City’s recycling program in 25 years earlier this week. Now rigid plastics, such as yoghurt containers, shampoo bottles, old toys and plastic hangers can now be recycled along with your water and glass bottles. Bloomberg says the rules are easy to remember.


If it’s rigid, recycle it. If it’s a plastic bag, no, that’s not rigid.


The new program means each year 50,000 tons of plastics will be recycled rather than go to the City’s landfill. The changes are possible through a partnership with SIMS Municipal Recycling which will open North America’s largest recycling plant in Brooklyn later this year.


Expanding our recycling program to include all rigid plastics is going to do a lot of good for our city’s environment, while saving taxpayers’ money. So it’s a win-win-win-win-win.


It could save the City up to $60,000 each year. Making it easier to recycle plastics could encourage people to recycle other things, too, such as paper and metal. The rules won’t be strictly enforced until July, but Bloomberg says you can start recycling today.

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New York Security Steps Back Up After Boston Standoff

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The events in Boston last night put New York police and emergency personnel back on high alert. For New Yorkers, that means transportation delays and more officers out on the streets. Max Rosenthal tells us what else is going on behind the scenes as the city reacts.

(Terminal noise from Penn Station underneath narration.)

NARR: The police lock down of the city of Boston also was felt here in the city. At Penn Station this morning, travelers arrived for their trains, only to find out that some trains were also in lockdown mode.

PA SYSTEM: Amtrak’s Boston service on this date has been suspended indefinitely due to earlier police activity in the Boston area.

Security at Penn Station has been visibly ramped up. Police officers from Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Department of Homeland Security were patrolling the corridors. Plenty of dogs were along with them.

(Barking noises.)

But passengers stranded in New York didn’t appear to be nervous. Instead:

CLOSE: I’m angry.

ROSENTHAL: At Amtrak? The police?

CLOSE: The police.

Scott Close is trying to get home to Boston after a trip to Washington with his wife and grandchildren. He thinks even after last night’s incident, security is going too far.

CLOSE: You know, I understand they’ve surrounded Arsenal Mall in Watertown, and that should be it. It shouldn’t be the entire the entire beltway, two and a half million people, who have their freedom taken away because of one criminal who the police let get away.

Train schedules and operations at Grand Central Terminal and Metro North were not affected, according to the MTA.

(Fade out Penn Station noise.)

The public presence of security officers is only a small part of the work that takes place after a big attack. Erroll Southers is a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California. He’s been a policeman, FBI agent and homeland security official. The coordination of thos agencies, he says, makes up much of the work behind the scenes after a major attack such as the Boston bombing and today’s lockdown. He said that may even include fielding reports from security officers overseas.

SOUTHERS: Every one of the FBI legal attaches abroad, they’re all working very, very hard on this case. They’re going to go to the ends of the earth to find out who did this. So every lead, whether its in the United States or another country, is being investigated and will be reported.

But police also spend a lot of time responding to an increased numbers of calls. Police commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters on Tuesday that New Yorkers reported 77 suspicious packages. That’s more than three times the usual number. And while every call needs to be investigated, few, if any, turn up anything dangerous.

SOUTHERS: I won’t say it’s useless, but often these are items and/or people the reporters would have walked by a week ago and not said anything.

(Fade up truck noise.)

Sure enough, last night, police and fire vehicles rushed to the corner of 116th Street and Broadway. Officers closed traffic and members of the bomb squad waddled out in full-body protective gear. One of the officers said they were responding to a suspicious package at an apartment building. But after just a few minutes, the responders shut off their flashing lights and drove away. False alarm.

On the street, Columbia student Gregory Graff said it was the first instance of increased security he’d seen all week. But either way, he didn’t think it mattered.

GRAFF: Anyone can take a bomb and put it in a backpack and leave it in a crowded area. Unless you put a National Guardsman on every street corner, I don’t think there’s much you can do.

(Fade out truck noise.)

Southers doesn’t agree. He says that New York is a leader in counterterorrism work. The city set up the country’s first Joint Terrorism Task Force, which coordinates, city, state and federal agencies, and has thwarted several attacks in the last few years.

SOUTHERS: New York has been doing the right thing since 9/11.

NARR: And after the first successful terrorist attack on the United States since 9/11, that’s more important than ever.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.

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Anthony Weiner Makes A Comeback To New York Politics

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On this day six years ago Anthony Weiner was a 6th term congressman and early favorite for the 2013 mayor’s race. But his political career collapsed after he accidentally tweeted a racy photo of himself and act that exposed his history of sexting to women he was not married to. He resigned from congress in June of 2011 and he stayed out of public eye since then. But now he is making his comeback. This week he was featured on the cover of New York Times magazine with Huma Abedin and he admitted he is thinking about getting back into the mayoral race. Max Rosenthal speaks to Colin Campbell from The New York Observer about the story.

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Muslim Democrats Aim For Bigger Political Voice

HOST INTRO: If you’re a Democrat in New York City (and you probably are), you can choose from one of hundreds of political clubs to suit your interests. But until two weeks ago, there was no club representing New York’s Muslim population. The Muslim Democratic Club of New York launched on March 15th, and Max Rosenthal tells us how it plans to give Muslim New Yorkers a more powerful political voice.

NARR: Club leaders say there are 105,000 Muslim-Americans registered to vote in New York City. 70 percent of them are Democrats. And in a year when New Yorkers will elect a new mayor, the club’s co-founder Ali Najmi says that could be a big number.

NAJMI: If all 73,000 showed up, 100% participation to the primary, they would probably make up 10 percent of the primary vote this year.

NARR: He says actual voter turnout among Muslim New Yorkers has been much lower than that. The club was formed to change that.

The club’s most pressing concern in the short term is the NYPD spying scandal. In 2011, journalists uncovered the police eavesdropping on Muslims in New York.

NAJMI: It’s our belief that if our community was voting at much higher levels, we would be able to prevent some of the abuses that some the institutions in the city have taken against this community, particularly the New York Police Department.

NARR: The group also wants to fight for lower-profile items like including Muslim holidays on the school calendar. And, he says, they’ll push for the same concerns that affect all New Yorkers: jobs, rent, education, and other quality of life issues.

One thing they won’t stress is foreign policy. The club has pledged to stay out of controversial issues like Israel and Palestine that are hot-button topics in New York. But Najmi admits that could change in the future.

NAJMI: Just like any other inst, the membership will drive the agenda. And so we will see over the next few years what the priorities become as the membership grows and becomes more active.

NARR: This year, the club wants to make sure mayoral candidates are paying attention. Todd Brogan, the spokesman for mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, says unity is the key.

BROGAN: The fact is that if they come to the table as a single entity, as a single group, they’re obviously going to have a voice that’s easier for policymakers to listen to, because it’s very easy when a community isn’t united and isn’t organized to kind of ignore its concerns.

NARR: On the City Council, Albanese used to represent Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Arab and Muslim immigrant population. He’s also an immigrant himself, born in southern Italy. Brogan says that’s why Muslims should back his boss.

But Abby Kawas, who lives in Bay Ridge, is looking for more. She spent countless hours registering new voters in the Muslim community during last year’s presidential election. She says she’s looking for a candidate who will to stand up to the police commissioner who supported the NYPD spying program.

KAWAS: I’m paying a lot of attention to who’s supporting Ray Kelly and who’s supporting the Inspector General bill.

NARR: She’s referring to a bill would create a new official, appointed by the mayor, to oversee the police department. These kinds of reforms will be crucial if candidates want to court the Muslim vote.

NAJMI: What we’re looking for from mayoral candidates is a commitment to end the surveillance program and to commit to reforming the NYPD. We’re really measuring candidates by those two things.

NARR: And that’s a problem for Albanese. He doesn’t support the bill. And at a candidates’ forum in January, he called Kelly the best police commissioner in America.

That means that when the campaign heats up, the Muslim Democratic Club will probably be backing one of Albanese’s opponents. They’re planning a big get out the vote effort to boost the number of Muslims at the polls and support candidates who back police reform.

NAJMI: We’re going to knock on doors, we’re going to make phone calls, we’re going to work the ethnic press and we’re going to work our networks to make sure that happens.

NARR: It’s just a first step in giving Muslim New Yorkers bigger influence in city politics. But with the stakes so high, it’s an important one.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.

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Facing the Fear of Death, and Preparing For the Future

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HOST: Many people fear death. But what do you when the fear is so strong it keeps you from helping your loved ones cope with loss? After the death of his grandfather last month, our Max Rosenthal had to tackle that question…and his wish to live up to his father’s example:

When my grandmother died nine years ago, I nearly skipped her service, I couldn’t bear to be in the same room as a dead body. I was 20 years old – in college, and technically an adult. Yet suddenly, I was a freaked out kid again, thinking of mummies in ancient Egypt and wondering if my grandmother was going to come alive.

When I arrived at the synagogue for her service, I was supposed to sit at the front with my family. But I could only stand near the back, sweating and softly cursing. I finally took a seat nearby with a family friend, mortified —  and terrified — all at once.

What I remember most was looking at my father. He was there next to her coffin, as he was supposed to be, as I was supposed to be. He grieved with his brothers and, when the time came, lifted her coffin with them, walking my grandmother’s body up the aisle of the synagogue. I felt ashamed not be with him, paralyzed by what I knew was an irrational fear.

Watching him made me think of a day  –  one I hope is still far in my future – when my father will die. And then, I won’t be able to hide in the corner.

My guilt about it never really went away. I finished college, I joined the Army, and started to live my own life. And the further I got from my parents, the more I realized just how much I owed them. Years of work, constant support and countless thousands of dollars: I was haunted by the thought that I might not step up for them as they had for me. That image of my dad at the funeral stuck in my head. Next time, I promised myself, I’d do better.

But then my dad called last month to tell me his father had died. Despite my resolve, I felt the panic immediately well up. A few days later, I was back at the same synagogue with the same empty hearse out front, making that same nervous walk across the lobby. The coffin’s plain wood was more white than last time; the people in the seats more gray. Otherwise nothing had changed, and that seemed to include me.

I managed to sit up front this time, but I couldn’t stop staring at the coffin. My relatives brushed up against it when they walked past to deliver their eulogies, and it gave me chills. I ran my eyes over the grains of the plain wood, and I started to notice some small gaps in the lid. I pictured it coming apart in my hands, crashing to the floor, sending me running in a panic.

But suddenly I was in the aisle with my cousins, right where my father had stood nine years before. My grandfather was wheeled between us, and the rabbi spoke in Hebrew while I took the coffin’s handle. I touched it lightly as possible at first, but my grip turned stronger as we approached the hearse.

At the cemetery, we hoisted his coffin out of the car and carried him to the grave. I fixed my eyes on the ground, trying not to listen for eerie bumps from inside the box. But it seemed almost like a reflex by then. I was shocked by how quickly my fear had fled. We laid the coffin on the hoist and the pallbearers stood back with our relatives. And just like that, it was over.

I watched my father’s face as we went through the service. My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s, and by the last year of his life his memory was completely gone. But at least once a week, my father made the hour-long trip to be with him, making meals and taking drives and talking for hours with a man who could barely speak.

Until the day of my grandfather’s funeral, I hadn’t known if I’d be able to be that kind of son to my father. Now I was free of that fear, too.

BACK ANNOUNCE: That was our commentator, Max Rosenthal.


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New York Turns to Private Companies to Fund Development

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It’s a model that’s been popular with Mayor Bloomberg and name-checked by President Obama in the State of the Union: public-private partnerships. The arrangement helped build city monuments like Grand Central Station. Now there is a new approach: private money will team up with taxpayer funds to improve the most basic government services–schools, roads. Max Rosenthal has the details.


Private investors have pitched in to build some of the of the city’s most famous new attractions:


Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Barclay’s Center, the entire Midtown West project is a public-private partnership.

That’s Joel Moser, a professor of international affairs at Columbia. He and other experts say that the partnerships, or “P3s” offer governments a way keep paying for the construction they need. Michael Likosky is one of the country’s leading experts on P3s. He says that the approach lets the city take advantage of private sector flexibility.


P3s allow projects to go forward, to get completed faster and it broadens the number of projects one can do.

These days, the projects aren’t limited to stadiums or skyscrapers. New York’s growing population and aging infrastructure means that even bigger bills are on the horizon.


In order to do what we want to do in terms of more high-tech jobs, more manufacturing jobs, we really have to drive down the cost of doing business in the city and in the state. And P3s are the main way that that can happen.

Other big cities like London have already started using private companies to fund basic public needs like water.

It’s worked so far, but it’s not without risk. Private companies save the city money by building the projects themselves, but they expect to make money from the deal. Biser says that can be difficult when talking about something like a bridge.


Suppose you enter into an agreement today and you allow the tolls to rise at a certain rate based on certain indexes. You can end up with a toll that is totally unacceptable to society. And therefore the private sector made a deal and they need to get their money back, but it doesn’t fit necessarily with the public good.


This is not philanthropy. This is a business deal. You’re trying to make an investment in the community.

Rick Norment is the Executive Director of the National Council on Public Private Partnerships. He says that Mayor Bloomberg’s push is a big part of the reason P3s are growing in the city.


It’s critical in public-private partnerships to have strong leadership from the public sector.

And that leadership should continue after Bloomberg steps down next year. With public money still in short supply, New Yorkers can expect more P3s in the coming years no matter who is running the city.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News

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Quinn and Bloomberg’s Food Cart Showdown

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HOST: City Council Speaker and likely mayoral candidate Christine Quinn introduced a bill that would slash the maximum fines charged to street vendors. That stoked the ire of Mayor Bloomberg but raised the hopes of the vendors themselves. Max Rosenthal reports:

NARR: New Yorkers who buy hot dogs and halal meals from street vendors might expect the city to make sure those carts are safe and clean. The city does fine owners whose carts are unsanitary. But Archana Dittakavi says that many fines have little to do with public health.

DITTAKAVI: “The example we kind of go to a lot, because it happens a lot, is, for example, a vendor has their license inside their jacket because it’s a cold day.

NARR: Dittakavi is the staff attorney for the Street Vendor Project, a group that advocates for the rights of vendors.

DITTAKAVI: “They zip their jacket up and the police will say, ‘where’s your license?’ you know, ‘give it to me, I’m going to write you a ticket for not having it conspicuously displayed.’ Things like that, a vendor can potentially pay a thousand dollars for a violation like that. It’s ridiculous.”

NARR: In 2006, the Bloomberg administration raised the maximum fine from $250 to the current level of $1000. But that number can be difficult to pay, especially for the many vendors who make only 15 or 20 thousand dollars a year. Mahmoud Selim, who runs a halal cart on upper Broadway, says a fine could seriously damage his bottom line.

SELIM: “You take long time to make this thousand dollar. So if you have fine for one thousand dollars it’s going to be a big problem, you know?”

NARR: The Street Vendor project recently began pressuring Christine Quinn to cut the fine in half, to $500. The group organized around 1,500 vendors to display signs on their carts demanding that Quinn take action.

DITTAKAVI: “She had made other comments supportive of small businesses and when you look at it, vendors are the smallest of the small businesses, right? So we saw the potential that she could be a champion for our people, for vendors.”

The group was right. On Thursday, Quinn finally introduced the bill. But Mayor Bloomberg was unimpressed.

BLOOMBERG: “Reducing the fines is one of the stupider things I’ve ever heard.”

NARR: The bill is expected to pass, and Bloomberg is expected to veto it. But Quinn told a reporter from CBS Channel 2 that his threat won’t matter.

QUINN: “There’s never been a veto I haven’t overriden.”

The bill will come up for a City Council vote next week, setting up a showdown between Quinn and Bloomberg.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News

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