Port Chester, NY: Leaders Queasy About Food Trucks in Village

Robert Curdgel buys hot dogs from Joseph Di Chiaro at Jo Jo's Lunch Wagon on Abendroth Avenue in Port Chester on Friday. The village is considering new restrictions on food trucks, which under current law are supposed to move 50 feet every 15 minutes. / Leah Rae/The Journal News

By Leah Rae | LoHud.com

Robert Curdgel buys hot dogs from Joseph Di Chiaro at Jo Jo's Lunch Wagon on Abendroth Avenue in Port Chester on Friday. The village is considering new restrictions on food trucks, which under current law are supposed to move 50 feet every 15 minutes. / Leah Rae/The Journal News

PORT CHESTER — A trio of food trucks have made Abendroth Avenue into a little lunch alley, with meatball wedges from Jo Jo’s, tacos from Taqueria Xochimilco and hot dogs from Anthony’s.

But village leaders have no appetite for the concentration of three trucks on a busy thoroughfare, where construction of an apartment building is under way. They discussed during Monday’s meeting how to replace the widely ignored and hard-to-enforce requirement that such vendors move 50 feet every 15 minutes.

Food trucks are a sensitive issue in a village known for restaurants.

“They say we contribute nothing,” Joseph Di Chiaro said from the window of Jo Jo’s Lunch Wagon. A customer from a nearby office was ordering $2.50 hot dogs with chili, cheese and onions.

Di Chiaro wished he’d been able to speak up at the meeting when Port Chester Trustee Bart Didden said: “They don’t contribute anything to the village coffers, except for maybe the 25 cents that they’re throwing in the meter.”

Actually, Port Chester licenses food and ice-cream trucks for an annual fee of $350 for residents and $450 for non-residents. Seven vendors are currently licensed.

The village code bans the trucks on certain streets, including Westchester Avenue. Three years ago, the board considered adding Abendroth and several other streets to the list.

Mayor Dennis Pilla said he, too, was frustrated that the 15-minute rule was not enforced and that the trucks weren’t paying property taxes. The board asked Village Attorney Anthony Cerreto to look into a possible fix.

Asked about the licensing fee Friday, Didden said the amount wasn’t nearly enough, given that restaurants paid thousands of dollars in village property taxes a year.

He said trucks should pay a comparable rate. As one approach, he suggested having vendors bid for the right to a certain parking spot for $150 or $250 a week.

Di Chiaro said he pays sales tax, permit fees for the village and Westchester County Health Department, and $4 to $5 a day for the parking meter. Abendroth is one of the few main streets where he’s allowed to park, he said.

Anthony Romeo, from the hot dog truck down the street, said the trucks serve a niche that the restaurants can’t. A lunchtime customer stopped by the truck in work boots, jeans and an orange safety vest, and left with two hot dogs.

“He can’t go into a restaurant,” Romeo said. “He wants a quick lunch. I’m perfect. With this economy like this, it’s ideal.”

He knows the trucks aren’t for everyone.

“If you had a suit and tie, you’d go to Willet House and have a beautiful steak,” he said.