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Food Cart Fervor: Mayor Calls Quinn's Push To Lower Fines 'Stupid' Idea

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A street food fight is brewing between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the woman who wants his job.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is pushing the city to reduce fines faced by street vendors, but the mayor described it as less than a good idea.

"Reducing the fines is one of the stupider things I've ever heard," Bloomberg told reporters, including CBS 2's Tony Aiello, on Thursday.

The mayor said he'll veto that "stupid" idea, while Quinn said bring it on.

"There's never been a veto that I haven't overridden," Quinn said.

Quinn is pushing to reduce the maximum fines faced by street vendors from $1,000 to $500 and the mayor is pushing back.

"We want people to follow the rules. If you reduce the fines, they will follow them less. The complaint is they're not following them now," Bloomberg said.

The mayor's point was illustrated on Fifth Avenue on Thursday.

City rules require vendors to be 10 feet from a crosswalk.

A cart spotted by CBS 2's Aiello was about six feet away. The vendor got three tickets on Thursday, which is about average.

"I mean it goes up to 15, 20 in a week," vendor Leon Zayid said.

Zayid said last year he had to pay more than $22,000.

"That was a lot of money," Zayid told Aiello.

Months ago, street vendors began plastering Speaker Quinn's face on their carts, urging her to support measures to reduce fines and claiming they hurt struggling immigrants.

"We're not trying to whack somebody who makes a one-time mistake, but if you're somebody who thumbs your nose at the law, who acts recklessly, then you are gonna get fined repeatedly because that is just not allowable," Quinn said.

Quinn said the bill the Council will pass next week is balanced and will reduce fines and congestion by banning food carts from heavily congested zones near hospitals.

The mayor doesn't buy it.

"It is to protect the vendors," Bloomberg said, referring to the current rules.

The mayor and the speaker, often allies, are now on opposite sides of this street fight.

The City Council votes next Wednesday, and Quinn said she has the votes to override the mayor's veto.

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