What Happened At the Schnitzel & Things Truck Yesterday?
By the time I walked up to the Schnitzel & Things Truck around 1:30pm yesterday, most of the action had already ended. But I was just in time to catch a Mister Softee truck driver berating the owners of the Schnitzel truck. Explaining to them that his truck had been parked on this corner for years, and that they couldn’t park here, and that they were ruining it for everybody. “”There are a million corners to park in New York City! This one is mine.” Both trucks had been kicked out of their spots by the cops, who claimed that they had been receiving “complaints.” And even though the Schnitzel Truck had twittered earlier about trouble from a halal guy, it’s more likely the complaints came from the businesses in the area (possibly the Verizon store on that corner.)
Once the news broke, Schnitzel fans everywhere lashed out at the cops, the halal guy, and the Mister Softee truck vendor- who I watched threaten the owners of the Schnitzel Truck. And while I don’t believe in vendors threatening other vendors, and I really want schnitzel to be available in Midtown as often as possible, I have to side with the Mister Softee truck on this one. And it’s not too difficult to understand why.
One of the dirty little secrets about street vending in Midtown, especially for trucks that vend from the street (instead of carts that park on the sidewalks), is that most spots are illegal. In other words, cops can pretty much force any truck to move, anytime they want. The only reason they don’t is because they usually have better things to do, and will only enforce these random laws if they get complaints from businesses in the area.
The more of these new trucks that pop up in incredibly high traffic areas (like, anywhere on 6th Ave. in the 40s and 50s) the more chance there is of complaints. So while I don’t condone threats or violence of any kind, I understand why the vendors who have been around forever go to such great lengths to maintain the status quo. In this case, the Mister Softee truck, who has parked on that corner for years without any trouble, gets kicked out simply because the Schnitzel & Things Truck decided they wanted to park on 43rd and 6th yesterday. How is that fair?
In this particular case, it’s not entirely clear what caused the complaints. Maybe it was the arguing itself that forced the cops into action, and if the two trucks and the halal cart had just decided to coexist peacefully the businesses in the area might not have noticed. But regardless of the particular reason for yesterday’s issues, it doesn’t change the fact that the more carts that show up in these high traffic areas, the more trouble there is going to be with the cops. And the more trouble there is with cops, the worse it is for *all* vendors.
It all leads back to this. The guys who run the Schnitzel & Things truck aren’t scared of anybody (they’re actually pretty badass.) And they have every right to try and park wherever they want, and clearly their fans will have their backs. But in the long run this tactic will be bad for all vendors. They might get away with parking in the spot once or twice. But eventually, the more carts there are in these high traffic areas, the more chance there is the cops will kick everybody out.
I said this when the Street Sweets Truck had their trouble, and I’ll say it to these guys. You have twitter. You have the support of the blogs, and the media. Your fans will follow you wherever you go. You don’t need the foot traffic that these Mister Softee trucks depend on (from the spots they’ve spent years protecting.) I know it’s hard, but don’t fight. Just keep moving until you find a quiet place to vend in peace. We will all follow…