New York City Council to Introduce First Anti-Food Truck Law

Since the first new school trucks started appearing in New York 3 years ago we’ve worked hard to shine a light on all the tough barriers to entry they face.  From cops to brick and mortar stores to other vendors, starting a food truck in this city is not easy. In addition to the finite number of permits (which are impossible to get without turning to the black market), current laws make it incredibly difficult to find a truly legal spot on the street, and inconsistent (and oftentimes incorrect) enforcement makes it hard for the vendors to know what is permissible and what isn’t. And yet, despite all of these issues, food trucks continue to operate and expand… and thankfully food trucks lovers (like us) haven’t seen the Government (or the police) take a hard line stance against these new trucks- that is, until now.

Tomorrow afternoon City Council members Jessica Lappin (from the UES) and Karen Koslowitz (from Queens) will introduce a new local law that will give the Department of Health authority to suspend any vending permit issued to a truck with two parking tickets (i.e. feeding the meter or idling) in a 12 month period, and revoke the permit of a truck that receives three parking tickets in a 12 month period.   The goal is to get trucks to not idle in parking spaces all day long- but the result will essentially be to put all food trucks out of business.

I spoke with Council Member Lappin earlier today to find out exactly what she hopes to accomplish by doing this…

“I’m not an anti vendor person,” she said. “And that’s why I’m being very narrow in my focus.”  Referring to the fact that the new law relates only to food trucks (not food carts) and it refers specifically to parking tickets and idling. “The piece of it that gets under my skin is the feeding of the meter.”  According to Lappin, she’s gotten a lot of complaints from constituents, not just on the Upper East Side, but from Queens and all over New York City, about food trucks parking in the same spot for hours at a time, sometimes all day long.  “These are public streets and nobody has the right to use them exclusively. People were willing to look the other way, until it was being abused. It’s against the law but clearly the penalty [parking tickets] is not severe enough to make people obey the law.”

City Council Member Karen Koslowitz is also attached to the law, a surprise to us considering that in the 90′s she strongly supported a measure that would have increased the number of streets that were open to vending (a measure that Giuliani vetoed.) We emailed her for a comment, but never heard back.

Sean Basinski, in a post on the Street Vendor Project website, agrees that laws should be obeyed- but feels the penalty is too harsh.  “[We believe] that food vending trucks should comply with the parking laws, like everyone. We see no reason to punish vendors for parking violations more severely (with the loss of their means of livelihood!) than other individuals or small business owners who park illegally.”

In other words, if this law was to pass it would most likely put food trucks out of business.  Thomas DeGeest, the owner of the Wafels & Dinges truck says that they get an average of 3 parking tickets a month.  “And that is with a relentless effort to avoid them. Revoking [a permit] at 3 per year sounds like a Stalinist sabotage of the industry.”

Even though we’ve been warning about stuff like this for years, and understand the feelings of business owners who have trucks parked in front of their brick and mortar stores, we obviously are completely against this law.  Punishment should fit the crime… and in the case of parking violations, the punishment is parking tickets, not permanently taking away somebody’s business- which is exactly what would happen if a vendor license was revoked.    It wouldn’t be fair to suspend a drivers license after 3 parking tickets, why is it fair to revoke a vending license?

We’re not saying food trucks don’t need to follow the parking rules. We just find it hard to believe that this law is motivated by voters who want to free up a few more parking spaces in the city. (Food trucks make up a minuscule percentage of the commercial vehicles that idle in parking spaces for hours in this city.)   And if council members care about their constituents, they should hear the voices of those who love street vendors as much as from those who don’t. We should be pushing to pass laws that help street vendors vend legally in a way that is acceptable to everybody in the community- rather than a law that would strip a vendor of his livelihood because he was a few minutes late feeding a meter.

To her credit, Council Member Lappin did tell me she was willing to hear ideas that would help create more legal spots for food vendors.  Let’s get her to give up on this law (which would put some of our favorite food trucks out of business), and then hold her to that promise!

The law is being introduced tomorrow around 1pm, but the hearing where people can testify for or against the law isn’t until next Wednesday, June 16th at 10am.  Want to make your voice heard?  You can reach Council Member Jessica Lappin via email (lappin@council.nyc.gov), on her website, and on twitter. And Council Member Koslowitz via email (Koslowitz@council.nyc.gov).  Plus the Street Vendor Project has set up a Facebook group, in the hopes of discouraging the law from passing.

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

43 Comments

  • Wasting our tax $$. Don’t they have more important things to worry about than the parking spots occupied by a handful of food trucks???

  • I think it’s time that all Midtown Lunchers write/call their council person to see if we can get someone to OPPOSE this ridiculous campaign (another in a long line of ridiculous campaigns by the NIMBY-I-Belong-In-the-Suburbs brigade).

    http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml

    That will tell you who your council person is, and if it’s either of these two morons, I suggest calling and showing your disgust.

  • RE: “I’m not an anti vendor person,” she said.

    Well, I am not either so long as the ‘vendors’ are legal American citizens, are clean, and are closely regulated by the health department of whatever city in which they are peddling their goods.

    BUT, you and I both know that this is NOT the case, most especially in NYC, where movie clips of RATS running around in, eating, and defecating in certain “trucks.”

    PERSONALLY? I would absolutely starve before eating ANYTHING from a so-called ‘Food Truck.’ But that’s just me, and it is my privilege and personal decision.

    If YOU want to eat their ‘offerings’, then more power to you.

    BOTTOM LNE: I think that so-called ‘Food Trucks’ should be BANNED in every city! WHY??? Because they cannot and will not be adequately controlled and inspected.

    Carrion. please.

  • I am totally pro-foodtruck and pro-indie start-up business. What what about the idling. That is not the best in the world. There must be a less-polution-y solution for powering the truck. But what.

  • this is called stupidity. first of all, if meters generate revenue, and we make people pay to make it equitable for everyone to enjoy parking spaces, the natural idea is to (duh!), increase the rate for parking meters.

  • The city is just dropping the damn ball on potential revenue by not adopting spot permits with some special rule for people who’ve had permits for a long time.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Jessica Lapin is firmly in Bloombergs pocket. We know Mike doesn’t like carts, and Jessica is just carrying out the hit.

    Good luck stopping this. Take a look at the travesty that is Times Square lately? Bloomberg does what he wants and his flunkies take care of the details.

    This law is as good as done.

    • Really? That’s upsetting…

      If they want to make the fines harsher that’s one thing… but permits are impossible to get. If you revoke a permit after 3 parking tickets you are putting every food truck out of business immediately and permanently. Hopefully we can get enough public support to put an end to this nonsense. Just doesn’t make sense to take away somebody’s livelihood over parking tickets. Even the best, and most well meaning drivers, find it hard to avoid a few parking tickets a year in New York City.

  • I agree with MikeNYC. Unfortunately he’s totally right.

  • If they can explain how they are going after all drivers “feeding the meter” all day long and what punishment they face then so be it, if not this is biased in its inception and would be as a law.

    • this would be a problem to go after IF it was legal to vend from a metered spot. BUT IT’S NOT !!! even commercial parking… so, basically, they’re taking the defense that they’re going after vendors who aren’t feeding the meter, when legally, we aren’t allowed to even park in a metered spot and vend, so what revenue are they worried about losing or about us being late?

      so, now that we know that’s a moot point. the question is… what is this law protecting, serving, balancing? if not to protect revenue from meters, why is it being created???

  • This is a crock of horsesh*t. There has to some kind of argument here, constitutional or otherwise, about selective enforcement of commercial vehicles. They should try to get the ACLU on board with SVP. This is why I was so adamant that we not elect Bloomberg the tyrant to a term he effectively bought by buying off the City Council to approve the term limit increase for Mayors…America, the land of the free my ass….

  • dbug42, I was visiting NYC before you were ever born. So why don’t YOU please shut the fu@k up?

    I do NOT need YOUR permission to speak my mind, in case you are NOT aware of this country’s tradition of freedom of speech.

    Carrion, please.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Jessica is famous for her ‘crane law’

    Crane violators get off easier than food carts.

    I don’t have much sympathy for meeter feeders, cars or food trucks. But this doesn’t seem a law designed to do that. It seems, as everyone knows, a law designed to put trucks out of business.

    If there were, at the same time, a clarification of standing for trucks using legit spots, and protection from building owners who recruit the local thug with a badge to roust them, I could see this law making sense. But there’s nothing to protect trucks, just whack the hell out of them.

    Not fair. Not balanced.

  • I visited NYC long before the so-called “Doc” did and that’s a fact and if anyone needs to learn to STFU it’s him. What a vile and vulgar sicko he is to speak that way to others and appeal to the concept of protected free speech which his fellow dimlibbers are working to destroy. That’s just plain disgusting, “Doc” and I’m happy to inform you that your recent “free speech” use in emails is moving swiftly to being VERY CENSORED, ¿Comprende, el Dr. Pyscho?

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    This is the kind of person she is:

    “The paper cites Christine Quinn, David Yassky, Bill de Blasio, Jessica Lappin, Vincent Gentille and John Liu as the worst offenders of taking money from groups they have set up with slush funds where they get to funnel tax dollars directly into district organizations of their choice. Lappin has received nearly as much in contributions from board members of a school she sponsored (just under 12K) as the amount of funds she sent to them (15K).”

    Whoever pays Jessica may just get what they want.

    Also, her campaign contribution list is fairly well dominated by real estate companies. Various officers of the Durst Corp have contributed thousands each, for example.

    We know many buildings are against food trucks parking near them. Looks like all that money they’ve spent has been a good investment.

    She’s owned, and she’ll do as she’s told.

    • Don’t forget Karen Koslowitz – she’s from Queens and has no business sponsoring this as the last time I looked, these trucks were not spending time in Forest Hills. Whose pocket is she in?

  • The city has no problem collecting permit fees every year, yet they make it impossible to actually use them.

  • I’m no lawyer but how can you revoke a license for something like getting a parking ticket? Does anything good ever come out of the UES?

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    you can pretty much tell a good food truck by the long line waiting for food and the overall apearance and cleanliness of the truck.
    if you want to regulate food trucks how about inspecing them for real health issues? and it’s also time to rewrite food stores inspections in general. to close a restaurant or food store because there is no “no dogs allowed” sign has nothing to do with health or cleanliness!
    and by the by, will cars get the same restrictions, will drivers lose their license because of a certain number of parking tickets, or polluting idling motors?
    or is this just another way to collect fees and taxes? come on folks, let’s get real.

  • I’m guessing the city already targets food trucks for parking tickets (the same way they target cabbies), so they’re essentially setting vendors up to fail. Shame on you, Jessica Lappin and Karen Koslowitz, for introducing a law that will stifle entrepreneurship and seriously take away from the flavor of NYC.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Who exactly is going to benefit from this ruling?
    Regular New Yorkers? No, they carry residential license plates and food trucks typically carry commercial plates and park in commercial zones.
    Contractors, UPS guys, construction guys? No, the number of food trucks that currently drives around Manhattan is probably less than 200 – the ones driving in Midtown and FiDi is less than 100. That’s a musquito peeing in the sea, like we say in Belgium. It’s not going to solve the problem if you take out a few food trucks.

    But guess what? Go take a stroll downtown or midtown and have a look at all the regular, private vehicles that are parked in commercial zones. Look on the dashboard. They have special permits from all sorts of city agencies, and many of these vehicles are NOT city agency vehicles but privately owned vehicles (just look at the way some cars are pimped out, look at the baby seats in the back etc etc). These belong to city agency employees who get special parking permits to drive in their own vehicles from outside Manhattan to park in commercial zones that are intended for commercial BUSINESS activities. We are not taking a few hundred. We are probably talking thousands of permits – little privileges given too government / city employees.

    How about Jessica Lappin starts with attacking the problem there? Small business owners in the city pay through the nose for traffic fines, simply because sometimes you have to get business and deliveries done. They are the ones paying all the sales taxes (yes, I do pay sales tax as a street vendor) that keep the city going and keep the city employees in their jobs.

    What Jessica Lappin is doing is the equivalent of trying to stop the Gulf oil spill by revoking the navigation licenses from the Gulf fisherman when their boats leak some oil. She should attack the parking problem where the real root causes are. Start by revoking special parking privileges for government employees and vehicles that don’t really need them.

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