Brooklyn: Food Fight – Board Seeks Changes to Sidewalk Cart Rules

A food vendor sets up shop at the busy intersection of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

By Paula Katinas | Brooklyn Eagle

A food vendor sets up shop at the busy intersection of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

Food fight!

Community Board 10 has declared war on sidewalk food vendors in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

Board 10 Chairwoman Joanne Seminara said the board’s leaders held a summit during the summer to discuss food trucks and what to do about them.

“We are actively exploring proposals for solving this growing problem and the many legislative and regulatory layers that make enforcement difficult,” Seminara told members at the board’s monthly meeting on Sept. 19.

There are at least seven food vendors set up on busy streets in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, including three on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street, according to Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

The vendors tend to set up shop on commercial streets where there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic. While vendors do provide a service to pedestrians who are pressed for time, there is a serious problem for the community that comes with shoppers stopping at a food truck, buying a sandwich and eating it on the run, board leaders said.

Among the problems board leaders said are caused by food trucks on local sidewalks: litter, odors, grease being poured down sewers, obstructed sidewalks for pedestrians and noise from the cart’s electric generators.

“These trucks are not the simple hot dog carts that people remember from years ago,” Beckmann said. “They’re really like restaurants serving full meals on the sidewalk.”

Some of the vendors also put bright lights on their food trucks to enable them to sell food at night, Beckmann said. “If a restaurant owner wanted to have illumination, they would have to go through a lot to get permission from the city,” she said.

The vendors also present an unfair competition to local restaurants, board leaders said.

The cheaper prices charged by the sidewalk vendors, coupled with the fact that city regulations governing restaurants are much more stringent than they are for sidewalk food vendors, places restaurateurs at a distinct disadvantage, board leaders said.

“It’s becoming a big problem for our businesses,” Seminara said.

Food vendors are licensed by the New York City Department of Health. The city has a cap on the number of vendors to whom it grants licenses citywide. The cap is currently set at 3,000.

Board 10 leaders said they will seek to change the regulations under which food vendors operate.