NYC: Cooking Up Food Truck Crackdown

GALE BREWER Pushes for regulation.


GALE BREWER Pushes for regulation.

A food fight is erupting between the City Council and New York’s increasingly popular lunch trucks.

Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill yesterday requiring the Department of Health to report the number of permits it issues each year to food trucks and carts. The measure would be the beginning of a larger plan to regulate them, she said.

The city currently caps street food-vendor permits at 5,100, but does not differentiate between carts, which occupy sidewalk space, and trucks, which take up street space and sell fancier fare.

“We like the carts. We don’t always love the trucks,” Brewer said. “I woke up one day and said, ‘Where did all these trucks come from?’ … Some of them are noisy and filthy.”

Brewer said the trucks often occupy illegal parking spots in front of fire hydrants or feed meters all day — even though a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled in February that food vendors cannot operate out of metered spots.

Brewer said she also plans to request a task force to evaluate how to regulate the industry.

Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) is drafting legislation that would create specific zones out of which lunch trucks could operate.

“In residential areas, you have truck after truck — it becomes a commercial thoroughfare where it was not intended to be,” Garodnick said.

“We need to make rules that are applicable to this emerging industry because so many of them today are operating outside of the law,” he added.

Zach Brooks, founder of Midtown Lunch, a blog about food vendors, criticized the council’s assault on food trucks.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with pollution and parking spaces,” Brooks said. “The reason they’re going after food trucks is because brick-and-mortar food businesses see food trucks as a threat, so they call their City Council members; they call the police … They don’t want them parking near their businesses.”

He said traditional food carts are far less threatening to restaurants than the gourmet trucks that offer up ethnic cuisine, homemade cupcakes and hot coffee.