Uncle Gussy Reminds Everyone That Truck Legality is Still a Gray Area

After yesterday’s incident on 55th Street, the owner of Uncle Gussy’s (an old school Greek vendor on Park and 51st) felt compelled to send us this email:

My name is Nick and I operate Uncle Gussy’s.

I just read your article on what is happening with the food trucks and their issues with other food trucks. I know both Papa and Eddies Pizza (both have excellent pizza) [but yesterday] there was a chaotic scene in Midtown. They both worked things out, for which I am glad they did (Papa has been there for quite a while.) But if trucks start making a circuit out of this area you better believe they will close that street to all vendors, mobile or not.

I too am a vendor and I tend to try and avoid the spotlight, just to avoid this problem. [My family's cart] has been stationed on one corner for the past 39 years. The owners of both buildings know us very well, so far so good, no problems. Once they see that more trucks start coming what happens to us??? The building manager specifically told me that they would block the whole street off and no vendors- not even a pushcart- will be allowed there. A few 311 calls, community board calls, political power, and etc.. and its over.

I was around in the mid 80s when they vanished all trucks from the street. They even tried to get rid of cart vendors. I believe with your website we can all prevent this problem. Now it is in my heart and common courtesy not to roll up next to any vendor with food, because it does cause commotion. Again I am not writing this letter for my interest alone but for the sake of all vendors. There must be a resolution to this. We just upgraded to a truck, and I believe the city is trying to put a curve on this trend. I urge that all of us pay attention and respect one another in regards to this issue.

I’m lucky to be were I am today, I do not know what tomorrow holds. I pray every day that we are allowed to work. I believe that all trucks should get a shot, but always remember the elements we face on the street.
Our legality as trucks is a grey area. DOT does not allow vending from any metered space, the health dept has no concern over that. And Jessica Lapin has an agenda for us food trucks.

I know that the people love us, its a new trend, and I believe it’s a great thing. But when you see a fellow vendor working, think before you act. I see pictures of trucks next to hot dog vendors. Those guys have been in the streets for years, no twitter or any media just hard work. Now I know they might not be the cleanest and neatest (I believe in good hygiene, and cleanliness is a must) but that does not mean we have to step all over them.

I’ve been on the street since I was about 10 years old vending with my uncles and family all over NY. I am now 33 and I have to be honest I have never seen it like this. It is a very tough business and things are getting tougher. I truly hope with this email, we can create a committee of some sort. Maybe this can be directed to the Street Vendor Project? Again, thank you.

10 Comments

  • Cool. And Uncle Gussy has been there forever. Good luck with keeping that corner alive.
    Not too far across is the dreaded Rafiqi’s and beloved Eggstraganza cart too. So plenty of carts and foot traffic in that area.

    Make food, not war…

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    im not saying that there is a food vendor ethics code… but i think if there were to be one then this guy should be one of the ones making it

  • Very classy, I go there once a month its right up block Keep up good work

  • congrats on the truck. it’s a shame i wasn’t around long enough to see the transition. i’m sure the food is just as delicious!

    I see what you’re doing and I think it’s the correct approach. All of the vendors should know this and should have the same mindset when working their stations next to others. With more education, we wouldn’t have to resort to this ‘dog eat dog’ mentality that doesn’t benefit anybody.

    You should definitely express you concerns to the Street Vendor Project as well. They’ve already touched upon this subject but, from what I understand, they also have volunteers who visit vendors in person. Perhaps they can relay your message.

  • Here’s concrete evidence of the influence of this blog: There was a line of over 25 people at Uncle Gussy’s at around 12:30 today, and it kept growing as the lunch hour went on. They generally have a line no more than 4 or 5 deep. I don’t think it was a coincidence.

  • Whether you agree or not, “Food Carts” are going to lose the battle, and NOT only in NYC, but in EVERY major US city.

    They cut their own throats with infighting, they often refuse to follow the rules, they do NOT contribute their share of revenue to the City’s tax coffers (such as brick and mortar restaurants), and their “products” are often questionable.

    The food cart operators, most often recent immigrants, had better find another line of work, because their days are numbered.

    Of course, they MAY be able to find work at State Fairs and other such carnie events.

    Carrion, please.

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    Can’t we all just get along?

    Mike
    http://hotdogstandbusiness.org

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    Wait, this guy has been around that long and has no contact with the Street Vendor Project? Why is the SVP only really involved with funky trucks and tweeting chefs? Would love for SVP to open their books.

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      Hi, Sean here from SVP. This just popped up on my google alert.

      It doesn’t sound like Nick is an SVP member, but I’m not surprised. We have about 1,200 members but there are ten times that many street vendors in NYC.

      We have people in the streets every week doing outreach but its a big city, we only have 2 paid staff, vendors move around, some are just not interested, etc.

      FWIW, 98% of our members have never heard of Twitter. But don’t take my word for it. If you want to see who our members are, and maybe get more involved, come to any of our monthly meetings, which take place the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 pm at our office.

      And please invite any vendors you know. Nick, if you are reading this, I hope you can make a meeting! Sounds like you have the kind of experience and input we could use. We talk a lot about inter-vendor relations, pending legislation, and other issues of concern to the vending community.

      If meetings are not your thing, friend us on Facebook so you can keep tabs on what we’re doing.

      Thanks.

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