By Sarah Page Kyrcz | New Haven Register
It’s not whether they sell cupcakes or tacos. The ongoing food truck stew in Madison boils down to location, location, location, opponents say.
But one taco purveyor says he is being singled out.
Protesters came out on a recent Sunday afternoon with placards objecting to the trucks’ School Street spot, which they claim spoils a designated scenic road, to a spot in the downtown commercial district.
That’s not the real beef, however, claims one food truck owner.
Taqueria Cinco owner Nicolas Carvente, a town resident, claims there is another motive that is at the root of some of the complaints, and pointed to a negative social media posts he called “bullying” and evidence of “racism.”
On a recent afternoon, Sugar Cupcakes, Taco Pacifico and Taqueria Cinco queued up in their usual spots, when Carvente received a Facebook message denigrating his food truck, his food and his reputation.
“Your trucks look ghetto and you don’t care or have enough sense to know that a multi-colored bus with tacky flags and a generator hanging off running may not fit in a old New England town, but what’s worse is that Mexican food sucks. The ingredients used are usually subpar and the spices are overdone and not complimentary,” said the post.
Carvente is the only constant vendor on the north side of School Street. He says he is being targeted, with vehicles preventing him from parking in his spot and the recent protest.
“When we are here, that’s when all of these people try to do this,” he said, referring to the protest. “When the other guys are here, which is the cupcake truck or cannoli, they didn’t do anything like that. When they probably saw me by myself here, because I do it year-round, they always do something like that.”
The Friends of the Village Committee protested near the food truck March 8. Some 20 people carried signs that read, “Who allowed food trucks on scenic route?” and “Move trucks to commercial.”
Following the protest, some Facebook posters expressed support for Taqueria.
“Buying lunch for my staff at the Taqueria Taco truck because I believe in all types of small businesses!” wrote Beth Lindsay Chapman.
Linda Ungerleider, a member of the committee, said her group is not singling out anyone, nor is it against food trucks.
“We have indicated over and over again, that we have no interest in stopping food trucks, or not liking them,” she said. “They should not, commercial trucks, should not be in residential 2 zones where they are.”
Committee member Stuart Lerner echoed these concerns.
“It’s not the food trucks,” he said. “It’s the billboards on the other side of the truck. We want these trucks moved to a commercial area.”
The 8-foot-by-15-foot “billboards” Lerner referred to are the signage, business names, hours of operation and menus emblazoned on the food trucks. Lerner said his personal opinion is that, without the “billboards,” the food truck controversy could be settled.
The location of the food trucks is governed by Board of Selectmen policy. Ungerleider and other members of the committee will present their concerns to selectmen April 13 and April 27.
First Selectman Fillmore McPherson said that while the area is Zone R-2, residential, “Zoning regulations apply to the buildings, the land and buildings, not to the public thoroughfare.”
He added that the calls to his office are overwhelming in favor of the food trucks. The results of a town survey asking whether residents were in favor of the food trucks parking on the north side of School Street was “a landslide,” he said.
“It was 87 percent (in favor), which is a landslide in anybody’s language,” McPherson said.