Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Carting Corruption

The examples of the efficiency of the Bloomberg administration never cease to manifest themselves. This time, as the NY Post reports, it is rampant corruption in the city's "mobile food vending unit." It seems that the DOH is so busy trying to regulate our lives with new more intrusive regulations and signage, that it can't properly oversee what it is statutorily charged with being responsible for: "An undercover investigation of street food carts has uncovered massive fraud, with $200 city vending permits fetching as much as $15,000 in a thriving black market, officials said yesterday. The officials also disclosed that the food-safety inspection system at the city Health Department was so faulty that vendors and brokers were able to routinely bypass it through trickery."

So, while the new veggie vendor permits go begging-a symptom of the dynamics of simple supply and demand-the real food vendor permits are more valuable than gold, and subject to corrupt counterfeiting: "I can't sugarcoat the fact that we found a black market with probably a couple of hundred illegal transactions," said Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn. "It's not a couple of instances."

What this means to us, however, is that the unwieldy duplication of responsibility between the DOH and the Department of Consumer Affairs-something we have been critical of for years-needs to be overhauled; because, with divided oversight-and let's not forget that the NYPD is often charged with the actual street enforcement-there really is no oversight at all: "DOI reported that more than 500 permit holders may have illegally peddled them for 10 to 75 times what they paid to desperate vendors who couldn't wait years for their names to be called from the lengthy list."

But this misfeasance by the Bloombergistas-famously known for their health concerns-may have been...really bad for your health: "Investigators also found that when a cart couldn't pass a health inspection, unscrupulous vendors were able to sneak in a different cart. Among those arrested was Nikhil Dhameliya, 23, of Woodside, Queens, a notary public who operates a candy stand at 42 Broadway, headquarters of the Department of Consumer Affairs, which distributes licenses. She was accused of notarizing 30 blank and pre-signed forms certifying that food carts were being stored in licensed facilities."

We have been complaining about this lack of responsibility and diffuse oversight for years. Our complaints have focused on the legion of fruit and veggie vendors who seem to be running illegal operations in front of every Manhattan supermarket. In fact, one vendor in front of a Morton Williams market near Columbia, bragged that he controlled multiple carts; and employed many of those vendors who are unable to get a cart permit of their own. Our complaints-as well as our efforts to get adequate enforcement-feel on deaf ears at the Mayor's Office as well as the City Council.

The DOH was too interested in its health experimentation to perform the job that it was historically assigned to do. Maybe now, with scandal and corruption exposed, the city will begin to take seriously the need to completely overhaul vending-and protect the legitimate retailers who are preyed upon by these illegal leaches who are almost as far removed from the notion of the struggling immigrant entrepreneur as Mike Bloomberg himself.