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

  • And just what is the current deal/situation/arrangement/etc. in regards to UPS, FedEx, cabs, car services, charter busses, etc., and multiple parking tickets? Is the City going to start taking those licenses and permits away? Should they?

    • most commercial vehicles have registered as a fleet so that they can control the parking ticket situation. obviously this works for companies that has tons of vehicles on the road, like the ones you mentioned, Jose, but doesn’t account for the little guys. especially not the food vendors.

      http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/parking/park_commercial_fleet.shtml

      • I understand the fleet situation. However, in this case, it seems – to me at least – that a “ticket is a ticket” – no matter to whom it is issued. If the primary(?) aim of this bill is to control illegal parking, then the proposed penalty should apply to everyone. Or no one.

  • Man, that really sucks. SAVE THE FOOD TRUCKS!!!!!!

  • Such a shame the city cant designate certain streets as food truck friendly, with free parking for them.

    Residents and visitors love quality food trucks and if the city is willing to give them a permit to operate, the least they can do is give them a place they can operate without overwhelming restrictions.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    are the vendors paying the parking tickets? if they are then the city is probably getting MORE money from them than they would if normal cars parks in the spots for the alloted period of time. i dont have a problem with the city cracking down on unpaid tickets… but just tickets in general? and shutting them down for a year? how do they expect people to pay for tickets without a way to make money?

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I’m reading this from Sacramento because we’ve got crap laws that mean we have no gourmet food trucks at all. But to the fool who says that they are unclean? Come on, surely NYC health inspects the trucks like we do for the few that exist here. Trucks here have to pass the same inspection as brick and mortar. We envy your trucks and hope you get to keep them. As a comment to the parking, can’t the trucks make agreements with small parking lots? Do moving trucks have the same issue if they are moving furniture all day?

    • Parking Lots ate up valuable vertical real estate in NYC, and were mostly converted into buildings and whatnot. Most parking lots in the city are multi-level enclosed valet parking companies.

      As for the clean/unclean, no matter how hard they try the brown doesn’t scrub off their skin, so they’ll never be clean enough for some people :(

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Food carts are much more of an issue than the trucks, block sidewalks, leave trash and more. Let’s focus on the real nuisance.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    How would you like to have a stinking rat magnet “Mystery Meat” truck parked under your bedroom window 24/7 stinking up your life and have the police do NOTHING about his breaking the law.

    The ptomaine truck on 28th Street and 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan NEVER MOVES from the corner spot. He is here and open for business illegally for three months so far 24/7.

    He has delivery trucks arrive at 6AM with his supplies waking us up.
    The police do nothing. There is only ONE officer in my precinct who even knows the Dept. of Consumer Affairs laws that he is breaking. Most quality of life laws in NYC are unenforceable as anyone at a community board meeting knows.

    You who love food trucks…get an apartment with one outside or a creepy Mr. Softee “noise wagon” idling.

    You have no idea what you are talking about like that average ignorant American, and have NO experience with which to sermonize about right or fair.

    Then whose rights will we be defending. YOURS not the trucker.

    My whole building has had it’s quality of life destroyed for ONE GUY with a stinky, greasy, smokey, noisy idling truck and a circus atmosphere here at night with drunk clubbers screaming and eating and hanging out.

    Democratic majority should rule. 100 residents vs 1 trucker.

    If we don’t want him he should move!!!!! BUT NOOOOOOO.

    It’s disgusting that people who have no experience with this meat truck horror which has descended on the city. They are taking away money from food stores and restaurants who pay rent!! is a sin.
    I want the Greek Corner Coffee Shop to get that business. He was here first.

    Get rid of all street vendors whose rights are dwarfed by a city who hates them clogging the streets selling JUNK. Ban them permanently or at least protect residents rights to not smell rat, pigeon and squirrel meat cooking all day.

    This city is a joke for residents rights and always protects and defends any business whatsoever even one truckers rights.

    Bloomberg AKA Richy Rich loves money and hates residents.
    He looks down from his ivory tower.
    Since he began influence peddling here, this criminal mayor has earned more money that Warren Buffet since 911 and has tax shelters which rob New Yorkers of Taxes! A criminal tax evader. Fact check if you will. 350,000 MILLION off shore with no taxes.

    The little guy meaning me (and NOT the trucker( has no right or quality of life in NYC.

    Vote out all filthy rich people in office and that should do the trick.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    claverne: I work in that corner building so I know exactly which cart you are talking about. It’s no better and no worse than any of the other carts that are set up up and down Seventh Ave.

    If you live at 28th and 7th, are you really a little guy? That’s a commercial area with sky-high rents… and office workers looking for cheap, quick lunches… and bars and clubs. If you want quieter streets, move to a residential area. The food cart is the least of your problems.

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