Liveblogging: City Council Anti-Food Truck Hearing
Right now, the City Council is holding a hearing to discuss the proposed Anti-vendor law. Miss Softee (follow her on Twitter) is there, and will be sending us live reports from the scene… you can read about the proposed law here.
9:45am – I’m in. security is prepping for a massive influx… they will close the doors once the room meets capacity, and it may fit 50-60 people.
10:07am – As people assemble, the few council members currently present shuffle a stack of papers for those that wish to testify. Lappin has yet to arrive.
10:08am – Based on what I can see, Eddie’s Pizza, Wafels and Dinges, Van Leeuwen, Frites and Meats, Cupcake Stop, NYC Cravings, as well as many lesser known vendors are here.
10:15am – Council Member Koslowitz: “I’m not against food trucks. I had my breakfast from a food truck this morning”
10:20am – The hearing room is completely full… apparently Doug from Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and Kim from the Treats Truck didn’t make it in.
10:24am – Sean from the Street vendor project is the first to testify, followed by a halal vendor who asked them to understand the complexities of being a vendor and not to penalize food truks unfairly.
10:30am – The tension is mounting as vendors start speaking. The council has demanded that there will be no clapping, booing, or speaking out or the meeting will be ended immediately.
10:40am – The suits have arrived and they are in favor of this bill. Of course they are… we’re up and coming and taking some of their business.
10:44am – Ice cream trucks have just been singled out as a problem because they ‘act like they own a parking space’.
10:46am – I think the suits are from the “Business Improvement District” or something… they are screaming about the amount of litter that trucks create, claiming that we dirty up their districts and make a polluted, dirty landscape.
10:50am – The Mayor’s office has just handed in a letter in OPPOSITION to the bill!!! One audience member asked if this meant the meeting was over.
10:55am – My turn to testify… be right back.
11:10am – I just spoke about receiving tickets for engine idling when it’s actually a generator running or receiving tickets for parking at a metered spot. Lappin and Koslowitz personally promised to fight any tickets I get unfairly. I’ll hold them to that the next time local enforcement writes me a ticket for parking at a commercial spot and paying the meter.
11:20am – Now a business owner from Queens is waving around photos, and yes, yelling about trucks that are parked all the time on the same side of the street day in and day out. The pictures are of trucks that should not be there.
11:27am – Dan Rossi is speaking now as an advocate in the industry for over 20 years. He claims that this a horrific bill that attacks 20 or 30 trucks and will take away the livelihood of vendors everywhere. He couldn’t be more right. This bill is going to hurt the employees that are working the trucks and will put us all out of business.
11:32am – Oleg from the Schnitzel & Things Truck just presented a petition to Council Member Jess Lappin with over 5000 signatures in opposition to the bill! Thanks to everybody who signed it in support…
11:39am – Oleg: “‘We believe this bill discriminates against a small group of people unfairly.” Lappin’s response: “It’s ridiculous for one person to own a parking spot for $200 a year and $3 in parking fees.”
11:42am – Oleg tells the City Council they should come and try his schnitzel… “once you take a bite you’ll drop this proposed bill.” Got a big laugh.
11:45am – Doug from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck is up. He runs one of the “ice cream trucks that are accountable in the city”. He’s talking about one of the same issues I raised… this law is particularly unfair to those who share trucks with others. If someone else takes the truck, and gets tickets, it’s the truck that loses its permit. This affects all of the employees that work on a particular truck.
11:55am – Michelle Birnbaum, VP of the East 86th Street Residents Merchants Association, is speaking now. 86th Street is the location of the truck that Lappin cites as an example of a truck that parks day and night in the same spot handing out take out menus with an address. Birnbaum is strongly in favor of this bill, since it enforces already existing laws. Nevermind that the “enforcement” would unfairly put people out of business, and the laws that are unfair, staid, and unavoidable for many vendors.
12:05pm – To their credit, council members seem to have made a bit of an about face from the beginning of the hearing. At first, they whispered, ignored what everyone said, and shuffled their papers. Now, they are sitting attentively and are engaged in the discussion. This has actually has turned out to be a conversation! (Which is what we’ve wanted all along…)
12:15pm – Council member Charles Barron (District 42) just said “This bill is ridiculous. It’s absurd! Vendors have gone through enough…. we have an employment issue in the city, so when people create a way to make an income [we should support it.] I’m embarrassed that th council would put forth a bill to make people lose their licence in this economic crisis!’
And that’s it… the meeting is over and overall it seemed to be in the vendors favor. They didn’t say what happens next, but during the meeting Lappin seemed to be receptive (at least on the surface) to working with the vendors. According to her no law gets passes exactly how it is written the very first time. So, this fight isn’t over just yet. Please contact your City Council Member and let them know how you feel!