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!


  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    so wait… she sites a truck that she sees as a problem… in her case to make a bill that will kill off every truck like it in the whole city? wow… politicians at work, making life more tolerable for themselves

    i haven’t heard any arguments from the politicians saying how it WON’T ruin the industry, she just wants a nice spot by where she works… how would someone go about creating a no parking zone in that exact spot if the bill passes?

  • This boggles the mind and demonstrates why politics are screwed up. Ms. Birnbaum and Ms. Lappin seem to be up in arms about one particular truck on 86th Street, so much so that they need to pass a city wide law to punish all trucks.

    “Birnbaum is strongly in favor of this bill, since it enforces already existing laws.”

    Then enforce the ALREADY EXISTING laws, don’t pass additional laws!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I am curious to read Garodnick’s comments about this issue. He represents a large portion of the east side of central manhattan, which is my district.

    If anyone that is there is reading this comment, please reply back and let me know.


    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      I spoke to his office on Tuesday. I think they were “leaning against it” But give them a call. The person I spoke to was very nice to talk to.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Very nice to hear they’re finally listening!! I think we can’t completely demonize these people (including Lappin). A conversation has to happen. And maybe even compromises on each side. But to just write off the council members are being paid off (and the unnecessary name calling) doesn’t help our cause at all.
    Level heads will prevail!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    btw, I’m not pointing fingers are anyone about the name calling. I’ve done it myself on this comment board about this issue. But I think now is the time for calm discussion. This is too important an issue!

  • And the truck being cited on 86th Street is… ??? And is a representative/driver from said truck at the hearing?

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I was there this morning for both the press conference and most of the hearing. I left before I got a chance to speak however. The best thing you can do is call your city councilperson to voice your opinion. Literally, ONE WOMAN complained, and that’s how this all got started. Imagine what will happen if everyone who reads this blog voices their opinions as well. You can find your person’s name here:

    Seriously, folks, CALL THEM. It’s worth the 10 minutes out of your day.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Great job on the updates…sounds like reason might win out in this case and at worst a less restrictive bill will emerge…..
    keep in mind that no bill will move in the Council without the Speaker’s support-that’s Christine Quinn from Chelsea -she needs to be educated on the issue especially by folks who live &/or work in her district

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Lappin can’t think in principles and can’t think of consequences. Parking spaces cost “$200 a year and $3 in parking fees” because that is the government mandated rate. That’s an obvious mispricing, yet her solution is to effectively put one specific group of vendors out of business. This law is obviously quid pro quo for the brick-and-mortar businesses (aka a special interest) that have supported her election.

    • More than that, it’s a straw-man argument. The vendors don’t *own* the parking spot. When they move, other people take the spot. When they come back and someone is there, they have to find a different spot.

      Now, there are exceptions to every rule, and maybe this 86th st vendor that was the catalyst for all of this happens to buck the rules so much that he effectively “owns a parking spot for $200 a year and $3 in parking fees” (though I’d take her to task on that comment). However this is the exception, not the norm…

      • Exactly, Adam. She keeps citing this one truck as an example of her personal generalization. What research has she done in this topic before she proposed this bill? It certainly seems that she just based it off of her very limited personal experience and the bias of brick and mortar friends. If this waste of time is an example of Lappin’s use of her Jump to Conclusions Mat, what other policies is she messing up? What a waste of tax payer’s money.

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    Lappin is claiming that this issue is mostly about fair parking. There are probably on the order of 100 food trucks in Manhattan and probably less than 10 in her district (UES). Does she really think that this will noticeably improve the parking situation? Meanwhile she’ll add to the unemployment tally and reduce consumer choice.

  • im gonna upen a BP cart in Madison SQR

    Unleaded dolphin burgers anyone?

  • hi kids,

    BIG thanks all for reading and responding — this was a charged hearing full of people that are passionate about what they do and the customers that they serve, (that’s YOU!), and with a united front, i do believe that we will not see this bill signed into law…. but until it’s official, the fight isn’t over just yet!!

    i urge you to contact your representative and communicate these two things: WHAT punishment this bill proposes for the crime and WHO it will actually affect…

    1. this bill proposes unfair punishment based on the crime. while it has good intentions and there are certainly issues that need to be addressed, to strip truck permits for parking tickets, it is dropping an anvil on an egg carton with to remove one or two bad eggs.

    2. should the food truck industry be extinguished, THOUSANDS of jobs for licensed mobile food vender workers, manufacturers, suppliers, mechanics, and depot/commissary owners and employees may be needlessly lost in a recession driven economy. workers will be punished for actions they may have not personally taken and they, along with the families they support, will ultimately face the consequences as their jobs disappear.

    now, in my personal opinion, while i know that the bill obviously seems unfair given some delivery trucks’ erratic parking behavior, how awesome our food is, or how much truck culture is a part of what makes the NY fabric awesome to touch, when it comes to the fight we put forth, let’s focus on the facts that can hopefully move our government to work WITH the vendors to address the issues that sparked this bill in the first place!

    thanks again all for your continued support!
    <3 chrissy, miss softee

  • Charles Barron has the best appeal to logic.

    Lappin is trying to take ‘der jerbs!!

  • hoenstly, what would NY be without street vendors? Sounds like the vendors kicked ass! thanks for the play by play Miss Softee!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I would like food trucks restricted.
    Lexington Avenue between 86th and 87th has turned into food truck alley (some decent food granted), but it is too much! Here is why:
    1- Food dropping all over street which attracts (more) rats.
    2- More litter.
    3- Customers clog up already crowded sidewalks (get out my way).
    4- Trucks are parked all day and night, so people looking to get a quick spot to jump out and buy something from a store are shut out.
    5- Trucks don’t pay rent and take away from hardworking business owners that have to pay big rents.

    That said, there has to be a reasonable way to compromise. I don’t think harassment with parking tickets is the way. Maybe better permitting or an area for the trucks to set up shop, but not taking every metered spot on a block all day where pedestrian traffic is already congested.

    • Poor shop owners selling an inferior product have to compete with these dastardly trucks that don’t pay rent.

      Its called free market. Why should you ban or limit vendors just for some crappy deli owners? Maybe we should ban crappy food blogs cause you are taking business away from the real media that have to hire writers and staff. If these restaurants sold a product people want, it wouldn’t matter what the food truck owners sell. Instead they all sell the same generic Pax/Cafe Metro/Food Exchange generic crap that no one wants.

      Believe me, if the food trucks stopped showing up near my office, it wouldn’t drive to get the Cuban panini offered from five different delis in a 1/2 block radius from my office, nor would it be a choice between a sit down restaurant and an ice cream from miss softee.

      And how many NY’ers really are concerned about finding a quick parking spot to run into a store to pick something up. This city isn’t a strip mall in NJ.

      • The dastardly trucks may not pay rent, but that doesn’t mean their expenses aren’t significant.

    • I don’t see why food trucks should be restricted “A Fine Blogger”, and your points don’t really support it either.

      1&2) So enact harsher littering penalties. When was the last time someone got a ticket for littering?
      3) No sympathy here. I work in Rockefeller center. What if some trendy new clothing shop or restaurant or whatever opened up. Should the pedestrian traffic mean the store should go out of business?
      4) Trucks are *not* parked day and night. *SOME* trucks may be, but they’re the minority. Furthermore, if the truck is following the law, what difference is it if it’s a truck or someone’s SUV that they use once a week or month and is otherwise always parked?
      5) Business A who works smarter at attracting customers will always take away from Business B. Also, trucks may not pay rent, but they pay kitchen fees (which must be DOH sanctioned kitchens) and garage fees (which must also be DOH sanctioned), which combined are a significant enough of their operating expenses to be equivalent to “rent”.

      Is this “Lex and 86th” location the same location that was discussed in today’s hearing? I’m curious how bad it actually is over there…

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Thanks for the Council Member link! Turns out mine is Christine Quinn herself! Here’s my letter and I’m an idiot because I meant to put a couple of the Midtown Lunch links in there to these posts because people a lot smarter and articulate than me had good points.

    Dear Ms. Quinn,

    Since I came to New York to study at NYU, I have loved this city. Now that I work and live here (as a financial professional), I love it even more, if that is possible. I never want to leave and always espouse good things about the city. When my friends ask me if I’ll ever leave, I joke that you’ll be able to see my trail by following the finger-scratched marks on the sidewalks as they dragged me away.

    I am writing to you today regarding Council Member Lappin’s bill regarding the food trucks. I think it s a grossly unfair bill and rather than pass it as is, the City Council should open a TWO-way dialogue with the vendors to make compromises on both sides.

    The main issue is that with such varied parking laws, some of them archaic, the NYPD doesn’t know which ones to enforce, how to enforce them or even if what they’re doing is correct. If the people who uphold our laws are confused, then how can the rest of us follow them? Many trucks, while trying to follow the laws, get an average of 3 tickets a month, let alone a year. Council Member Lappin claims that she is in favor of small businesses and that this new bill will not put them out of business, however, we all know this is not true. By taking away permits, you are taking away the livelihoods of a select few to punish a minority caught fragrantly violating established laws.

    However, it can be argued that this bill goes beyond that and veers into discrimination. Many of the violations that Council Member Lappin cites are committed on a daily basis and more grossly by such vendors as FedEx, UPS, Fresh Direct and others. After the BP disaster are we still willing to let corporations bypass laws that the rest of us have to follow just because they bring in more revenue? And as long as we’re talking about delivery trucks, what of the normal commuter coming into the city to work? Should not their driver licenses (and thereby their livelihood) be at stake as well? They violate the same laws on the same frequency as food trucks do.

    Please understand that all food trucks make up a small percentage of the overall city’s traffic and hence, make up a small percentage of its traffic violations. Yet this bill is only focusing on them due to a small number of complaints from Council Member Lappin’s district. It is clear that the general populace of our fair city is against this. One street truck vendor (Schnitzel and Things, I believe) got 5,000 people to sign a petition within a week. Members of Council Member Lappin’s district are also against this bill. Mayor Bloomberg just recently submitted opposition to the bill. In fact, the only people who have come forth in support of this bill are business owners who feel threatened by competition. Do we really want to pass a law that restricts competition?

    I have rambled on long enough and won’t waste anymore of your time. If you have read this far Council Member Quinn, I would like to thank you for your time. Of the past few years that I have been following local news, and I would like to say that your own personal story has been very inspirational. I wanted to say that generally and don’t want to make it seem like I’m trying to influence you with flattery, haha, I truly mean what I said.

    I’d like to end this letter with this: Every guest I have ever had visit me in NYC has always asked to go the famous Halal Chicken and Rice cart on 53rd and 6th, undoubtedly one of the most famous street food locations in all of NYC. I have used that as a springboard and taken them to many other food trucks over the city. Please ask yourself this, is it worth losing something that is actually an attraction to our city?

    Thank you again for your time.

  • i’d just like to put out there that you should address these people with compliment sandwiches — research them and figure out what good they’ve done and use that as your opening. For instance, Quinn helped keep the senior centers alive a couple of years ago.

    She’s pretty high up in the ranks so she constantly has to make tough decisions. This is likely not one of her priorities. To get your foot in the door, you should try to flirt with her ego a bit. :)

    Also, there was mention of a Business Improvement District. I live right by a BID and people comment all the time about having to pay extra fees/taxes that fund the district’s improvements. Having extra competition come by whenever they feel like it does feel invasive because they haven’t paid their dues [so to speak]. To a business owner, it’s like these trucks are piggybacking on your investments (time & money).

    We should try to sympathize with them as that is really the only way to get them to reciprocate understanding your frustration. The council could finally be listening but it’s the people who barked in the first place that you need to reach. And they just happen to be your biggest competitors.

  • It looks like the vendor on 86th street is Patty’s Tacos??

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