Anti-Food Truck Council Member Lappin Says It’s Ok to Break Parking Laws if Nobody Complains
The backlash against City Council Member Jessica Lappin’s new food truck law generated a lot of press yesterday, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be deterring her (in fact, she seems to be relishing it.) Lappin represents a district on the Upper East Side, and according to DNA Info she was moved to propose the law by a Halal Truck that parks on 86th Street and Lexington from 10am to 11pm. She also complained about a “dumpling truck” (Rickshaw parks on the UES on Fridays for a few hours in the afternoon) and a taco truck. The sad thing is, most popular trucks in the city don’t park in the same spot for 13 hours straight- but Lappin’s law punishes everybody, by revoking the license of any truck that gets 3 parking tickets in a year.
But what bothered us the most yesterday was her comments to CBS TV. When confronted with the facts that food trucks represent an incredibly small portion of the commercial vehicles who park illegally every day, and asked why she doesn’t go after FedEX and Fresh Direct as well her response was “simple – she says no one is complaining about those other companies.”
Actually, that’s about as untrue and misinformed as her telling the press that this law will not put food trucks out of business. I wrote her a later to address these issues, hoping for a response.
I saw the form letter you have been sending to people that email you about this new food truck law, and had just a few follow up questions for you if you have some time. I’ll be glad to post your response on the site, unedited.
I know you told CBS that nobody has complained about other trucks, but that is not the case. There have been numerous complaints against Fresh Direct’s fleet of trucks over the years, and they weren’t put out of business by some knee jerk new law. They got a meeting with Andrew Cuomo and worked out a deal to help make their business acceptable to the Government. Ironically enough, the complaints from voters weren’t even about idling… they were about the noisy refrigerators. And Fresh Direct trucks continue to “break the law” (as you say), and get parking tickets. (And I’m sure plenty of people still complain.) They pay those tickets, ($2 million a year, apparently) and continue to do business. As does FedEx, and UPS and countless other businesses.
I’m also curious how many complaints you received about this issue, and who they were from? And what is the criteria for bringing a local law based on complaints? Do the complaints have to outnumber those who are in favor of something? Or can a few complaints (and the personal feelings of one council member) be enough to enact harsher penalties on one group of law breakers, but not another?
Also, I wanted to know if you are you aware that it is practically impossible to operate a profitable food truck business while following every single parking law on the book? (Mostly because nobody knows exactly what all the laws mean, and who they effect.) It’s kind of a dirty little secret of street vending that most people aren’t aware of. In fact, some vendors have been told by police officers that it is illegal to vend from *any* metered spot for any amount of time. (And have received tickets for it.) But food trucks have been allowed to operate anyway, for the most part, because as you say- they are a very popular part of our city’s food landscape. And, in the end, nobody knows (including the police officers) what every single law is that governs food truck and food cart parking. So different officers enforce different rules on different days. It’s a complete mess, and street vending is an incredibly difficult business because of it. I know you say that food trucks can continue to operate as long as they follow the law, and this new law won’t result in food trucks being put out of business. But I can tell you, as somebody who has been covering this industry for a very long time, it will. 3 tickets in 12 months is just too low a ceiling, not just for food trucks but for *any* vehicle that operates and/or parks in Manhattan on a daily basis- whether it’s commercial or a passenger car.
In the end, knowing all this… do you think it’s fair to punish every food truck in the city, because of a few trucks that spend all day in their spots? Because most of the trucks this law will put out of business, don’t spend all day in the same spot. They move around, they try to follow the law (as they know it), but in the end it’s impossible for any truck to avoid 3 tickets in a 12 month period.
We’re not saying you’re wrong, we’re just trying to make it clear to the City Council that this law will put food trucks out of business. If that’s the goal, than fine. Let’s have a rational debate over whether or not food trucks should be a allowed to operate in New York City, and whether or not the current laws are set up to allow them to do that. If that’s not your goal, and you are not “anti-vendor” as you say, we have to ask you to reconsider pursuing these harsher penalties, and instead work with the vendors to come up with clear and concise regulations that everybody can support. If that includes not parking at a residential meter on
the UWS for longer than 1 or 2 hours, so be it. But please stop pretending that food trucks will be able to operate “legally” after this law passes. The Halal Truck on 86th and Lex might stop parking up there 12 hours a day, but the trucks in Midtown (which are enormously popular, and only park in their spots 3-4 hours at a time) will find it impossible to avoid 3 tickets in a one year period- no matter where they park, and perfectly they follow the vague and inconsistently enforced laws.
(Oh, and as a side note, the whole move around and twitter your location thing? That doesn’t work nearly as well as the media makes you think.)
Hopefully she’ll find time to respond.
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