Monday, January 24, 2011

Truckulent Response to Food Vendors

There's a war waging against mobile food truck vendors on the East Side-with the local community fed up with the invasion of lawless food purveyors clogging their streets and sidewalks. DNAinfo has the story: "They have thousands of followers on Twitter and a legion of devoted bloggers tracking their every move. But the appeal of food trucks apparently doesn't extend to the Upper East Side, where residents and food truck owners alike claim they aren't welcome. One taco truck was exiled from the neighborhood after a month-long ticketing blitz, culminating in an arrest and confiscation of the truck. Alberto Loera, 27, whose mother Patricia Monroy owns Paty's Tacos truck, spent two and a half years serving up cemitas, tortas and tacos de lengua on the truck at Lexington Avenue between East 86th and 87th streets before he was hauled out of his truck by police on Nov. 30."

What this war is about is the failure of the Bloomberg administration to enforce the vending laws that are on the books-and its demonstrative lack of concern for both brick and mortar business and the communities that feel over run by these truck stops: "They are lawless," Community Board 8 member Teri Slater said of food trucks. She called 311 to complain last week about a different vendor, Eddie's Pizza Truck, which was parked in front of a Gristedes on Third Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets. It's illegal to keep feeding the meter, "which they do with impunity." "They compete with the local brick-and-mortar stores, which are struggling, and they don't pay the same taxes," Slater continued. She emphasized that she was all for entrepreneurship, but Slater said she would rather see the truck owners take over empty storefronts."

But stores cost much more money to operate-and they actually pay taxes and high rents on the East Side. These freeloaders erode local commerce-not to mention the tax base that the city is struggling to maintain. But this Taco belligerent is way over the top-and he actually has email address for deliveries and a flyer to alert customers about the services that this truck stop offers.

This is a phenomenon happening all over the city-and our friends from the East Harlem Chamber of Commerce tell us that there is a Taco truck parked on 116th Street right in front of a local Taco Bell outlet. That's how brazen these scavengers are-and how clearly the enforcement regime has collapsed for all types of vending; another indication of how little the Bloombergistas care about neighborhood businesses and the communities they serve.

The proliferation of vendors-both mobile and hostile-is also a public safety issue. DNAinfo has this in a follow up story: "It’s a public safety issue," said Elaine Walsh, president of the East 86th Street Residents/Merchants Association, who was walking by when the cops issued the ticket. The trucks don't "permit people to feel comfortable walking in the area." Paty's was parked near the busy 86th Street subway station on a mixed-use block, she noted. Her group, as well as others concerned about sidewalk overcrowding and competition with stores, have long been fighting the trucks around Lexington and 86th Street, which have included a Halal truck, a Mister Softee (for the last 23 summers), a dumpling truck and a cupcake truck."

It is that-and much more. As we have pointed out continuously the fruit and veggie peddlers set up shop directly in front of existing green grocers and supermarket. One store owner told us that in one week when the local produce peddler was mysteriously absent, his sales went up $6,000! These are proceeds that help pay the taxes and the salaries of this store's unionized workers. On the other hand, cart owners often have multiple employees who are compensated in undocumented ways, and have none of the protections that the unionized supermarket workers have.

There is no doubt, however, that the vendors are putting a hurting on the legitimate tax paying small businesses. DNAinfo underscores this-and we'll give them the last word: "Many customers were glad to see the truck back. "I understand it’s congested on the sidewalks but we love the tacos and he has a right to be here," said Kimberly Everette, 36, an office manager at a nearby medical office, who nixed plans for soup at Hot & Crusty when she saw the truck had returned."

More vendor chaos and clutter
No regard for vendor laws