Queens, NY: Ecuadorian Food Trucks in Queens Complain About Police Harassment

QueensLatino/Javier Castaño Food vendors on Warren Street in Jackson Heights say they were recently told by police they can’t park on the street at night.

By Javier Castaño for QueensLatino  |  City Limits

Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell
The New York City Police Department is cracking down on food trucks in an area of Jackson Heights, Queens, after several fights have taken place nearby, one of which left officers injured — though the vendors feel they’re being unfairly targeted.

“The police want to kick us out after 20 years serving the Latino community,” said Martha Viteri, owner of one of four Ecuadoran food trucks parked in front of Sabor Latino Restaurant on Warren Street, just steps from Roosevelt Avenue.

The owners of the food trucks recently received a notice in Spanish from the 110th Precinct saying that “it is forbidden to sell merchandise or food from a municipal parking lot” and that vehicles with commercial license plates may not park there after 9 p.m.

“The police say that the community does not want us here, and give us fines for parking on the street,” added Viteri, standing next to her son, Roberto Macías. They own the El Guayaquileño food truck and have a rented New York City permit to park there.

Rosa Morales, from the Sabor Guayuco food truck, said that she does not understand why they are getting fined “when we have every possible city permit and insurance, and we keep the area clean.” She said that she has eight employees and that she obtained her license to sell food out of the truck three years ago.

“They need to let us do our job because we are not the ones getting people drunk and fighting at night,” said Braulia Torres, from the Pique Pase Pepín food truck. She was recently forced to pay a $35 parking ticket.

QueensLatino called the 110th Precinct and spoke to Officer Kenneth McGarvey, who said that the trucks have no reason to park on that street. “It is a problem that has been overlooked for many years,” he said, adding that he does not know how long the trucks will be allowed to remain there.

Detective Denise Moroney, an NYPD spokesperson, said that the problem is the large crowds of people eating at the food trucks or leaving nearby SL Lounge.

“Our mission is to keep people safe and enforce regulations and the law, which does not allow parking at night,” said Moroney.

She pointed to three incidents in the area in recent months: the first one on Sept. 1 at 1:18 a.m., in which a 27-year-old man was injured with a knife and another man was arrested. In another, on Sept. 14 at 5:05 a.m., three people were arrested for injuring two police officers who intervened to break up a scuffle on Roosevelt Avenue and 95th Street, steps away from where the food trucks park. The third one was on September 28 at 5:10 a.m., in which a man was arrested for hitting another one in the face with a metal chair.

“Another issue is the presence of chairs in front of the food trucks,” said Moroney.

Torres, though, countered that she no longer keeps tables and chairs in front of her establishment.