Food Truck Crack-Down Begins?

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Less than 24 hours after City Council Members Jessica Lappin and Karen Koslowitz introduced a new bill designed to crack down on food trucks in New York City, we spotted this cop writing up a ticket for the falafel truck that started camping out on the corner of Front and Main Streets in Dumbo a few weeks ago. Under the new bill, the DOH can revoke the vending permit of any truck that gets three parking tickets within a 12-month period. Lappin told the blog Midtown Lunch: “The piece of it that gets under my skin is the feeding of the meter. These are public streets and nobody has the right to use them exclusively. People were willing to look the other way, until it was being abused. It’s against the law but clearly the penalty [parking tickets] is not severe enough to make people obey the law.” Not surprisingly, food truck vendors are up in arms. “Revoking [a permit] at 3 per year sounds like a Stalinist sabotage of the industry,” said the man behind the popular Wafels & Dinges truck; he says he gets an average of three per month.
Food Trucks Could Face Ban for Too Many Parking Tickets [WSJ]
NYC Council to Introduce First Anti-Food Truck Law [Midtown Lunch]
New Bill Could Be Big Trouble for Food Trucks [Gothamist]

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  • daveinbedstuy

    This bill couldn’t have passed already, right? These two councilwomen are complete idiots. Don’t they have any grasp of how much these food trucks already pay in the form of the meters as well as tickets???

    These two need to get their priorities straight.

  • No, it hasn’t passed yet. I do believe there’s a hearing for it tomorrow though which is why the food trucks are trying to collect as many signatures on petitions as they can from those opposed to it. Here’s the link to the online one:

    http://www.petitiononline.com/ny2011/

  • Wait… I might be agreeing with DIBS. I feel dirty.

  • In the picture, the falafel truck is parked in a “No Standing Zone”. Pretty damning as far as I’m concerned.

  • CH Renter

    Pretty sure that street sign is the other street – perpendicular to where the truck is parked.

  • Arkady

    But if they do that, shouldn’t it apply the same way to UPS, Fresh Direct, US Mail, etc.? Seems really stupid to me.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Arkady, those outfits have an agreement with the city to pay $XXXXX to cover all the tickets written.

    The issue here is that these guys stay in one spot for a few hours and apparently it is illegal to stay more than the allotted time on the meter.

    Who cares who parks in that spot. These guys do pay a lot of money in meter fees and tickets. It’s a revenue source.

    And the people of NYC will be outraged if their favorite truck loses its license over bullshit like this.

    Where are these two jackass councilwomen from?????

  • They obviously don’t eat lunch from a truck…

    Also, Arkady, you’re talking crazy. You want consistent enforcement of the law?! Crazy talk.

  • DIBS, it isn’t a revenue source, since someone else would park there instead.

    I think the councilwomen are going about this issue all wrong, but I too question the use of parking spaces for retail, not to mention the competitive imbalance with brick-and-mortar restaurants. I mean, if have a produce stand, can you stack fruits and vegetables in the street as long as you keep feeding the meter?

    Since you asked, Lappin was elected from the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island and Koslowitz represents Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens (and vicinity).

  • Arkady

    dibs – One’s from Dist. 5 in Manhattan & the other is from Queens. I’ve just emailed both of them asking them to stop their campaign.

  • One of the reasons to have parking meters is to create turn over – you park for an hour, do your errands and move on so someone can do the same after you. Feeding the meter makes it harder for people to shop, because it makes it harder to find parking – that’s bad for business. (Of course the worst meter feeders are store owners, who love to get that parking space out front and feed the meter all day.)

    Do food trucks pay a special fee to the city for the right to sell on City streets? Do they get a “franchise” for a particular location, like sidewalk vendors do?

  • The Government can suck more tax money out of food establishments with fixed real estate locations, that is all that matters. Plus, restaurants contribute more money to political campaigns and they view the food trucks as unfair competition. This is pay back to campaign contributors to keep out competition.

    The City has no sense of creativity or appreciation for the struggling entrepreneur. It’s idea of local color are those street fairs selling tube socks and Italian sausages.

  • Wouldn’t the better solution be then to sell off rights to food vendors to “feed the meter”?

  • who would care are the tax paying businesses in the area that have customers that want to use metered parking.
    they depend on turnover of parking spaces.

  • So wait…the vendors can’t just keep feeding the meter all day and make it ok to be there? Is the issue that they feed the meter once and then let it expire?

  • Are businesses *really* dependent on customers with cars?

    (Keep in mind we’re not talking about Bensonhoist or somewhere in Queens…. this is in the parts of the city where the ratio of cars to people is ridiculously small.)

  • And to clarify with an example… let’s say a food truck takes up a parking spot for the whole day. They are preventing, what, maybe NINE or TEN cars from parking for an hour… if it’s 2-hour parking, maybe 4 or 5 cars. How many of those cars are shopping (a) at *any* shop, (b) at a shop anywhere near their parking spot, and (c) have decided to shop elsewhere because of this…

    With regard to (c) — that decision was probably made in 1963.

    If you’re in Manhattan or the dense parts of Brooklyn and Queens and your business depends on your customers parking out front…. well, you should have rethought your business model about 50 years ago.

  • I don’t understand the defense of people that are clearly violating and abusing the rules. Is it because you like this type of business? so that get a free pass?

  • tyburg – yes, some are. If it’s too much of a hassle to park on Bedford Avenue (for example), then maybe I’ll just drive to Target or some other shopping center with a parking lot. Yes, a lot (probably most) of business is walk-ins, but look at the turnover of cars on Bedford, Manhattan, Court, etc.

    Boerumresident – kind of my question, too. What is unclear to me is whether the food trucks are competing fairly with brick-and-mortar restaurants AND with sidewalk vendors. The latter two pay rent or franchise fees to the city for the right to sell on sidewalks. Do food trucks? Or are they assumed to be mobile, and therefore pay lower fees? I have no idea.

  • more4less

    yeah, this doesnt sound like not a revenue impact to city – especially if they transfer these seized biz licenses to folks on their waiting list. City could pick on other pressing matters but this one is a legit one (albeit small). In other cities, these trucks are roaming (vs parked at a spot 4ever).

    as a customer, would like the city to not pick on them but I can’t say it’s wrong for the city to pick on them

  • “Plus, restaurants contribute more money to political campaigns and they view the food trucks as unfair competition. This is pay back to campaign contributors to keep out competition.”

    exactly. This goes on all the time. Shows you who is for sale on the city council, I suppose….

  • From what I understand, the food trucks do pay a licensing fee to the city as well.

    It would be the selective enforcement of the law which is troubling. As DIBS said, UPS, FedEx, etc. have an agreement with the city to pay a certain amount to the city and chalk the tickets up to their cost of doing business. There are plenty of people all over the city that use metered parking while they work and run out every couple hours to feed the meter.

    The trucks are really doing nothing different but would be singled out under the new law. While I would still hate it, the only fair approach if it passed would be to have it applicable across the board not just to food trucks.

  • daveinbedstuy

    They should just raise the fee for their licenses and then allow them a certain spot during the day.

    Very simple.

    Why these two moronic jackasses have to complicate things is beyond me.

    Maybe they should take away people’s drivers licenses if they rack up more than three parking tickets.

    These two need to get laid.

  • During daylight hours, you’re allowed to “stand” in front of a fire hydrant… as long as you’re behind the wheel.

    “Between sunrise and sunset, a passenger vehicle may stand alongside a fire hydrant as long as a driver remains behind the wheel and is ready to move the vehicle if required to do so.”

    Seems like paying some 16 year old kid (at least in the summer months) like $8/hour to sit behind the wheel playing on his PS2 or talking on the phone would be worth it…

  • What would be smarter is for the city to designate certain spots along the street as vendor zones, and charge a fair amount, such as what they would be paying to feed the meter anyway, with perhaps a SMALL surcharge, and let legit vendor trucks continue to do business.

    Like anyone else with a business, a vendor truck depends on a following, which depends on them being in the same general area every day. The city demands licenses for these businesses, demands certain health standards in their upkeep and food storage, preparation, etc, motor vehicles has their standards, sanititation, and on and on. It’s a wonder you can get a cheap falafel after all of that. Not everyone can afford, or even wants a bricks and morter restaurant. These are great alternatives for them, and for the consumer. Why kill it?

  • In my experience there are a surprising number of people who do drive even in congested areas.

    Anyway, it seems there should be a good study of exactly how these vendors should be analzyed — in one way they provide a social benefit derived from the very mobility, but on the other hand they do take up spaces for long periods of the day, and these are spaces that are by their nature designed to have relatively fast turnover. (You don’t really see food trucks on side streets that permit parking all day.)

  • I’m confused.

    Are people saying that in NYC you can stay at a meter as long as you want provided you feed the meter on time? If so, I’ve never heard of such a thing. In other cities, your tires are marked and if you do not MOVE your car when the maximum time limit is reached you will get a ticket (fed meter or not). The reason I was told for marking the tires, is to ensure other people have an opportunity to park and patronize businesses. If this is not the case in NYC, this whole “turn over argument” might be moot.

  • How do you know that the cop in the picture is not just getting a donut?

  • daveinbedstuy

    What MM said. Also, a study like Boerumresident said. This overreaction by these two is not well thought out, like most things that come out of our various gowvernmental bodies.

  • Ishtar – you are NOT allowed to sit at the meter all day. I don’t think NYC does the tire marking thing, but the meter cops do keep tabs on who is meter sitting, and can and will ticket for that. They probably aren’t consistent in the application of the law, but the law is there.

    The City’s truck policy in general is screwed. Delivery and trade trucks, which the city needs, just have to factor in $150 a day as the cost of doing business in some neighborhoods. The City should have a permit to allow trucks to park in restricted zones for up to (say) half an hour at a time. Passenger cars in those zones (neighborhoods like Lower Manhattan or certain spots on a block in other neighborhoods) would get double fines for parking in a truck zone. (Yeah, yeah, the city is happy with the cash cow it has – it’s just another form of stealth taxation, which we all pay for.)

    As for the food trucks, if they want to be stationary, charge them a franchise fee. Hot dog vendors on the sidewalk pay it (and pay dearly for it), why shouldn’t a waffle truck two feet away?

  • daveinbedstuy

    They do pay a license fee. On top of that are the parking fees which the sidewalk guys don’t pay.

    HOWEVER, the sidewalk guys get to park their truck that pulls their food cart nect to it on the street all day!!!!!!!

    Double standard.

    This has not been thought out properly. Typical.

  • what’s even more ridiculous about this is that its not directed at the carts, just the trucks (that would be political suicide, of course). Cart’s don’t take a parking space, you say, but nine times out of ten the guy who operates the cart is parked right there, taking up a space all day, feeding the meter, so he can run his cart. So, you can drop the “using a public resource” argument if you haven’t already. This is political muscle, pure and simple, and as cynical as it gets.

  • @ WBer – Thanks for clearing up the parking confusion I have.

    Seems like we have too many laws and regulations around parking and these city council members can better serve the city by working on updating parking regulations and pushing for consistent enforment.

  • Dave, if that is the source of the problem, I volunteer for Lappin. Koslowitz, not so much, as Borat would say.

  • The simple solution would be to use free market pricing. The City should price parking meters at the market-clearing price: keep raising them until there is always an empty spot within a block or so, but not so high that there are more than a few.

    That way the spots go to those who want or need them the most, and the rest of us take our bikes or the subway.

    Without the artificial subsidy of low rent parking spaces, the shortages would disappear. There would be no need to stop people from feeding the meter. Drivers wouldn’t need to circle endlessly looking for parking, so traffic and pollution would drop. And the fees could go to provide better mass transit, further improving the traffic situation.

    If the vendors are really performing a useful service, they will be have no problem making a living even paying the market cost of the parking spot. If not, then they are just seeking to arbitrage a state subsidy into private profits.

  • Dave – my question is are the fees paid by a truck and a sidewalk vendor comparable?? Sidewalk vendors pay for a specific location, and the cost of that franchise fee varies based on how lucrative the spot is (prime midtown locations cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year). BOTH side vendors and truck vendors have to pay DOH license fees, but that’s very different. If trucks are not charged franchise fees (because they are supposed to be mobile), they are potentially paying far less than sidewalk vendors (even with meters and tickets factored in).

    I don’t know the answer (which I why I keep asking the question).

  • FinanceGuy — That’s fine and all… and I’m actually fine with things that might reduce the use of cars in the city, even my own car! But the “market-clearing price” will be crazy high. It will price most people in the city out of the market altogether. It would not serve the “casual parker.”

    I think the point of this whole thing is a double-standard. Folks feed the meter because they don’t want to pay $500+ a month for a parking spot… and most of them get away with it, so there is no incentive to change their routine. I think the food trucks are just an obvious example, but on the same block as the food truck there are probably 5 more cars that have no intention of moving.

    Now, if the enforcement actually took place consistently… you would find your “market-clearing price” plummet. Probably to somewhere around where they are now.

  • you think they are the only people who feed the meters? Look at Atlantic Avenue half of the spaces are taken by the merchants feeding the meters for themselves….and yes its illegal.

  • daveinbedstuy

    I don’t know the fee structures. Yes, they are probably not logical, like many things in this city.

  • SMeyer – Like I said at the outset, store owners are the worst offenders when it comes to feeding the meters. They see the spot in front of their store as their birthright, and don’t see any problem making shopping that much less convenient for their customers.

    DIBS – not logical?!? Shocking.

  • OK, so I checked into this very briefly. To sell any food from a cart or truck you need a personal license. That costs $50 for two years, or $10 for one year seasonal April to October. (You need to pass a food safety course. Make sure you have paid all your ECB fines and are up to date on child support to avoid unpleasantness.)

    Then you need a permit for your vehicle. Unlike the licenses, these are limited in number. The last time they added people to the waiting list was 2007 and they have no plans to open it now – you have to wait for someone to turn theirs in and that probably doesn’t happen often. It’s the same for a truck or a cart – $200 for two years if you are “processing” food i.e. cooking in excess of boiling hot dogs or making coffee. There is a list of streets and times that you can’t work on. $200 for two years “processing”, $75 for non processing. It’s $25 bucks extra, and a new form to fill out, if you want to sell “Frozen desserts.” Vehicles must pass inspection – not sure how much that costs – different rules for carts, trucks, “processing” or not.

    If you can’t get a permit, they have an apparently unlimited number of “restricted area” permits too — those are the guys that can sell in city parks or outdoors from private, commercially zoned property (the sidewalk in front of your store doesn’t count). Apply to the Parks Dept. if you want to sell in parks, not sure if they have a limit but I’d bet they do. There may be some borough specific permits available also.

    Street fairs are a different permit, easier to get but limited in location.

  • Donald Brennan

    Who parks what where is besides the point. How about the inequity btwn retailers in the traditional bricks and mortar space paying rent that covers real estate tax liabilities and other costs a dude and his van don’t have to bear? Playing field is not level here.

  • Donald — Think about it for a second… If you had a space in a brick-and-mortar space of the SAME SIZE — i.e., a window and a 30 sq ft kitchen — How much would you be paying in real estate taxes and so on?!

    The fact is that they’re not on the same playing field at all. The TRUCK provides food for someone to walk away with… the restaurant has seating and so on. Two different animals.

  • wonder what % of this all cash business is declared for tax purposes.

  • Pete — the same amount as the restaurants, massage parlors and bars… just enough revenue to make the expenses look correct.

  • Donald Brennan

    tybur6 – you think about it for a second. You would be paying something in real estate tax and insurance, neither of which the truck guy pays, regardless of how much space you deemed measurable.

    You would think with the truck guys and gals having so much lower overhead they could offer something better tating and healthier. Unfortunately, that is typically not the case. Slow death wrapped in starch seems to be the special everyday.

  • bfarwell

    Hell, I’m on the trucks’ side just because I like the food. I’m sure there are plenty of nice legal arguments, but until people start opening tiny stores selling $2 tacos out a window every couple of blocks, I’m all for taco trucks, and whatever legal shenanigans keep them operating.

    Lower overhead and more flexibility means better and more varied quick eats and snacks. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not competing with a proper restaurant, they’re competing with a sandwich from the deli, a slice of pizza, or Subway. While I like pizza, most of the slices joints out there are low-quality enough that losing some of them won’t bum me out, and the delis have plenty of other stuff to sell (and, again, there are enough of them I’m not particularly concerned with them closing… though I personally wouldn’t want to piss off the Yemenis.)

  • bfarwell

    “You would think with the truck guys and gals having so much lower overhead they could offer something better tasting and healthier. Unfortunately, that is typically not the case.”

    Dunno, tacos and falafel aren’t bad. Though the waffles truck would definitely do you in if you ate there every day.