Prediction: New Carts & Trucks Are About to See Some Serious Backlash

It looks like Midtown isn’t the only place where businesses are calling the cops on street vendors.  Eater is reporting that the Wafels and Dinges truck had the cops called on them yesterday morning by “the management at the Saatchi & Saatchi building at 375 Hudson.” It went on to say that “a building insider told the truck’s staff that there had been a concern their presence made the area “look unprofessional”.

No word on the end result, but earlier this week 1350 6th Ave. successfully chased the brand new Street Sweets Truck from their spot on 55th btw. 5+6th (claiming the truck was ruining the al fresco dining area in front of one of the building’s restaurants.) Much like Midtown Lunchers came to the defense of the Street Sweets Truck, waffle fans on Hudson showed their support on the Wafels and Dinges’ blackboard.

Could this be just the beginning of a wave of mobile vendor harassment?

With so many new street carts and trucks hitting the city these days, I can’t help but think we’re going to be hearing these stories more and more.  Brick and mortar businesses in New York City have always fought to keep vendors away from their entrances, but those disputes went largely unnoticed in the past (except by organizations like the Street Vendor Project.)  If a new vendor popped up, usually an immigrant selling halal food or hot dogs, buildings would call the cops, and the vendor (not wanting to get in any trouble with the police) would just leave.

The new crop of trucks that have been popping up, however, clearly aren’t afraid to stand their ground. They’re more educated about the parking laws, and better equipped to deal with building managers and police officers (not just because they speak fluent English, but also because they will encounter far less hostility from authorities than immigrant vendors are subjected to.) The real problem is the fact that they are selling more upscale food like waffles, high end pastries, fancy dumplings, and fried chicken. These new vendors are going to be perceived as a greater threat to the restaurants and fast food chains that can afford to pay high Manhattan rents.

Eventually these brick and mortar businesses, who have tolerated the occasional halal vendor or hot dog vendor as not being direct competitors, are going to be forced into pushing back. Especially once they realize it’s as easy as calling the cops, and coercing them into enforcing rules and laws that are usually ignored (like vending from a metered spot.)  This month alone we’ve post about the new Street Sweets truck, a new crepe truck, and the Le Gamin Truck. Plus there’s a Schnitzel Truck, and lord knows what else on the way.

Somebody asked me the other day if I thought this “street food” thing was a phase that would die out eventually.  My response was no. Street food has been an integral part of New York City life since the city was founded, and will continue to grow in popularity as long as the barriers to entry make it financially feasible.  But clearly as more and more of these fancier trucks fill our streets, the businesses who pay high Manhattan rents are going to become less and less tolerant. And when they lash out, those of us who want to see more of these vendors need to be there to show support. And that’s to say nothing of the opposition these new carts and trucks are already facing from other vendors who have been on the streets far longer.

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut is telling me this is only the beginning.

Related:

The Man Wins: Street Sweets Forced to Find Another Spot
Pret a Manger & Bistro Milano Call Cops on New Street Sweets Truck
Halal Vendors Chase Happy Well Being Cart Back Downtown

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