Most food carts already seem to use plastic or paper containers for their food, but now they have one less choice. NYC City Council passed a ban on expanded polystyrene (read: foam) food containers that will be effective July 1. An article in Scientific American states that the styrofoam containers cannot be economically recycled and so New York has taken a cue from other cities, like Seattle and Washington D.C., that have effectively banned the containers. Hopefully, that means no more off-styrofoam flavors in our street meat.
Archive for 'Street Vendor Issues'
On Tuesday, when we wrote about the New York Daily News’ horribly under researched article about getting sick from street food we specifically called out Dan Biederman, the president of the 34th Street Partnership, for drawing incorrect assumptions from the misleading statistics printed in the article. Yesterday he responded in an email to us (and in the comments of the post). Here’s his response, plus our response to his response.
Dear Mr. Brooks,
Midtown Lunch, according to its credo, “loves street food, and the challenge of eating in places that most of our co-workers would consider ‘dirty.’” We understand that, but also believe that the proliferation of unsanitary and unregulated food carts serving ill-prepared food does not contribute to the quality of any diner’s experience.
Ok. So I’ve got to stop you right there. I feel like these two sentences sum up the entire issue I have with this article and Dan Biederman’s quotes. Our credo, as you call it, doesn’t say that we like dirty food. It says we like places “that most of our co-workers would consider ‘dirty’.” (I can’t believe I’m about to give a lesson in punctuation, but…) the extra quotes around dirty are meant to signify that THEY’RE NOT ACTUALLY DIRTY. THEY’RE DELICIOUS. And many workers in Midtown simply think they’re dirty because they’re not chains, or they’re run from carts on the street, or in freight elevator hallways, or run by people who don’t speak English. You, sir, are the “co-worker” we’re making fun of in our credo. The sad thing is, as a public figure you have the ability to spread this stereotype on a larger scale than the average Midtown office worker.
Against my better judgement, I’ll allow you to continue.
The NYDN Article About Street Vendor Food Poisoning is the Kind of Rat Shit You’d Probably Get Food Poisoning From Eating
I’ll try to make this short and sweet because we all have better things to do than read about how poorly researched a New York Daily News article is… but a lot’s been made of the report yesterday that between June of 2011 and June 2014 the city of New York received 359 reports of food poisoning to their 311 hotline. The article goes on to insinuate that this is because street food carts are dirty and unregulated, unlike restaurants which get regular visits from the Department of Health.
As a noted lover of street food, my initial response was to wonder if 359 is a lot. On the surface it seems like that’s a lot of food poisoning… but in a city of over 8 million people, with 5000+ street food carts and 24,000+ food businesses covered under the department of health, is that number a lot? There’s no mention in the article of how many complaints were received about brick and mortar businesses. Just a lot of anecdotes involving tainted chicken, a green spotted hot dog, and the inexplicable chest hair “wafting onto the grill”. (That’s some pretty long chest hair!)
Nobody likes chest hair in their food, but we’ve got some bad news for those of you who think street food is dirtier than food served underneath and roof, surrounded by four walls. It’s not. And it wasn’t too hard to find the data to prove it.
The annual Vendy Awards commenced this past weekend with typical fanfare – the live bands played with gusto, the crowd happily munched on food and sipped beer & wine, a mob of volunteers ushered in order and cleanliness, and an eclectic gathering of vendors busted their ass and served some seriously amazing food. This could have been any Vendy award, other than the fact that this festival marked its 10 year anniversary, and that for the first time in this writer’s memory, Mother Nature paid a visit.
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Many food trucks seem to like to travel in packs. Historically, we’ve seen when food vendors congregate together, the customers come. Unfortunately in today’s heavily regulated (and practically illegal) food truck industry, when food trucks band together it doesn’t always work out well (see last year’s shutdown of Vanderbilt and 47th Street). Let’s hope this situation is different.
Today, the NYPD shut down the “outdoor urban food court” of food trucks located on 47th between Park & Madison. As Blondie had noted in the past, the street is regulated for 3-hour metered parking for commercial vehicles during the week, and food trucks congregated on the same block often lead to complaints and the Alpha Unit breaking up the party.
Many of the trucks are relocating to other locations today and encouraging patrons to write to the Mayor’s Office regarding the repeal of laws prohibiting them from vending at metered parking locations. For the time being, it looks like 47th Street will be off-limits for a while. (Thanks to Lunch’er “Jason” for the tip and the photo.)
As Blondie reported in June, over the past year or so, the number of food trucks parking on 47th Street between Madison and Park has been growing. All summer, the block has been a reliable destination to catch any number of tasty food trucks. I guess there haven’t been any legal/parking conflicts yet, as evidenced by the fact that the trucks continue to park there. But now, it looks as though the food truck madness is spilling over to Park Avenue…
Over the years, we’ve kept track of the ongoing issues with being a food truck vendor in Midtown. Block after block has gone from hot bed of truck activity to crackdowns and being literally off-limits for months or years. One thing we’ve always advised to the owners is do not congregate on the same block as it inevitably leads to complaints and the Alpha Unit. Such advice is not being heeded on 47th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, the bona fide home of Jianetto’s Pizza Truck…
If you follow the street food scene as closely as we do you’ll want to read this piece in the New York Times Magazine by Adam Davidson from NPR’s Planet Money. He interviews Thomas DeGeest from Wafels & Dinges and the owner of Taim, and gets them to say something that very few vendors will admit publicly… the food truck business stinks. It chooses to focus on the city restrictions more than the actual business model of street food (which also sucks, btw) and compares the street vending scene of Midtown to a third world country.
Coming shortly after the announcement that Bloomberg wants to launch a team of lawyers to hunt down food vendors with unpaid fines, we finally get some hopeful news on the food cart front. Last night City Council Speaker (and mayoral hopeful) Christine Quinn announced that on Wednesday she will be calling for a vote on the bills that the Street Vendor Project have been proposing for almost a year now. I guess she read the signs. The bills would lower the vendor fines from an unmanageable $1000 to a fee that vendors will actually be able to pay.
This is great news for street food vendors (and those of us who like to eat what they’re selling). But Gothamist reported that Mayor Mike (twirling his evil moustache) has proclaimed that lowering the fines is “one of the stupidest things I’ve heard.” He is threatening to veto the bill. Sean Basinski, from the SVP, believes the bills will have the full support of City Council and that they can hopefully over-ride the potential veto.