New York City Food Trucks Under Attack

New York City is cracking down on where food trucks can park, the New York Times reported yesterday.

The police “have told us they no longer want food trucks in Midtown,” said Kim Ima, the owner of the Treats Truck, a pioneer of the city’s new-wave food-truck movement, who began cultivating customers on West 45th Street in 2007.

Also ejected from their customary Midtown locations recently were the Comme Ci, Comme Ça Truck at 38th Street and Broadway; the Desi Truck at West 50th Street between Seventh Avenue and Avenue of the Americas; the Eddie’s Pizza Truck, the Kimchi Taco Truck and the Wafels & Dinges Truck, all at West 52nd Street and the Avenue of the Americas; the Crisp on Wheels truck at West 51st Street and Seventh Avenue. Members of the ragtag fleet of generic soft ice cream trucks in the area have been cast out, too.

Few if any of these trucks have been ticketed, and few towed. Nevertheless, some vendors who tried to return have been shooed away again. Many, including the Treats Truck, consider themselves permanently displaced and are trying to find other locations. In some cases, they have been turned out of their new neighborhoods, too.

[...]

The new sweep will affect not just Midtown but all five boroughs. “We are enforcing the law as it has been interpreted by the court,” said Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman.

The court case Browne is referring here to is

a May 24 ruling by Judge Geoffrey D. Wright in New York State Supreme Court. The decision reinforced a city Transportation Department regulation, believed to date from the 1950s, stating that no “vendor, hawker or huckster shall park a vehicle at a metered parking space” to offer “merchandise for sale from the vehicle.”

In a follow-up post today, Times writer Glenn Collins notes

In a ruling, Judge Wright said he was sympathetic to one food truck operator’s wish to sell offerings from metered parking spots. But he said that not only did it break the law but also that the courts “are ultimately not the appropriate forum,” he wrote, adding: “the City Council is.”

The City Council is also the main obstacle to the issuance of new permits for food trucks in New York City, an issue I wrote about in the April print edition of Reason.

“The number of permits is capped under the city’s administrative code,” [Zoe Tobin, associate press secretary with the city health department,] explains. “The city council would have to change the administrative code in order for there to be more permits available.” Unless city legislators act, the city’s vendor permit ceiling will stay capped at 3,100 renewable two-year permits and 1,000 seasonal permits.

Reason alum Michael Moynihan also opined on the regulatory miasma affecting NYC food trucks (and quoted yours truly) recently in the Wall Street Journal.

The news isn't all doom and gloom, though. New York City recently allowed a food truck to begin serving booze.

Baylen Linnekin is a lawyer and the executive director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit that promotes culinary freedom, the idea that people should be free to make and consume whatever commestibles they prefer. For more information and to join or donate, go here now.

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  • ||

    Remember liberals tell us that enlightened judges and regulators will always protect the little guy. What a fucking joke.

  • ||

    The little guy who leeches off of public property so that he doesn't pay property taxes, rent, garbage disposal or sewer fees, you mean.

  • WarrenT||

    And passes on the savings to you!

  • ||

    Considering the taxpayer is paying for the nearby sewer drains and garbage can emptyings, perhaps not.

  • Fluffy||

    Look, if cities are going to decide to leech off of businesses, and all the ways they've devised to do so are dependent on the business occupying so-called commercial real estate, then the cities should expect that people will try to devise business models that escape the trap the cities have set.

    "How dare those businesses not bind themselves to a commercial location, to make it easier for cities to tax, regulate and otherwise abuse them!" - Tulpa

  • ||

    then the cities should expect that people will try to devise business models that escape the trap the cities have set.

    And the people whose response is to move their business onto city property can expect the city to retaliate.

  • Fluffy||

    So you're saying that you think it's a good thing for city governments to retaliate against citizens who come up with business plans that don't fit a city's overall vision or plan?

    Nice to know.

    As cities everywhere struggle to leech off of businesses and to allow no one to escape, they can count on Tulpa's support.

  • Apogee||

    As cities authority figures everywhere struggle to leech off of businesses and to allow no one to escape, they can count on Tulpa's support.

  • l0b0t||

    But all the NYC food truck owners I know (most of them) and all of the location caterers I know (including me) do pay rent/property taxes for our garages/kitchens/commissary facilities, we do pay for utilities, we do pay for waste disposal, we pay business licensing fees, insurance, overhead. We face the same costs as a walk-in restaurant does but with added expense of 1 or more vehicles to bring our product to where the customers are.

  • ||

    Your garage or commissary is probably not located in high-priced high-traffic areas, is it?

  • l0b0t||

    That is all a matter of perspective I suppose, I find all of NYC to be high-priced and high-traffic.

  • Apogee||

    ...not located in high-priced high-traffic areas, is it?

    That has nothing to do with the beef about him not paying his disposal taxes.

    Why aren't you upset that the city is charging these brick and mortars too much?

  • Apogee||

    the people whose response is to move their business onto city property can expect the city to retaliate.

    Exactly. The 'city' is an entity unto itself, whose only purpose is to enrich the bureaucrats who divvy up the permission to do anything.

    The existence of government has absolutely nothing to do with those stupid citizens want.

    It's not like it's citizens who are buying and operating those trucks. At least, they don't count as such.

  • ||

    Property taxes are BS.

  • ||

    Kimchi tacos and Turkish tacos (that's the booze-serving truck at the link)? Want. Enough tacos and alcohol and you could almost forget what a nanny state New York has become.

  • Almanian||

    Do Tacos, Not Drugs

  • ||

    The Korean taco truck is awesome. The Schnitzels and Things truck is amazing. Two entrees fed five people.

  • ||

    Dag, Montreal has a location of Smoke's Poutinerie.

  • ||

    Have you tried it? I will make it a stop on my tour de poutine.

  • ||

    Sadly, I've not been back to Canada since they opened.

    I did eat my first poutine off of a truck, though. At least I think it was a truck. And they told me it was poutine.

    OH GAWD! WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT!

  • WarrenT||

    What they need to do is take the Invisible Bridges to the Islands of Excellence. They'll be free there.

  • Almanian||

    Warren, your ideas intrigue me, and I recommend you write several books about them so that I may purchase them.

  • jtuf||

    It's called New Jersey, and it's a peninsula. I've got a new slogan for the city: NYC - It makes New Jersey look libertarian in comparison.

  • ||

    “The number of permits is capped under the city’s administrative code,”

    TOO MANY CHOICES WILL DESTROY SOCIETY!!!!!!!!

  • Brett L||

    Mr Linneken, you have quickly risen to the top of the alt-text pile at reason.

  • Baylen Linnekin||

    Much obliged. [alt-text: The compliment and $40 gets you a Keep Food Legal membership.]

  • Brett L||

    I am now a member. Based solely on your skills as a caption writer.

  • Baylen Linnekin||

    Awesome! Thank you! [alt-text is same]

  • ||

    New York can sink into the fucking ocean, for all I care.

  • New York||

    Ask us if we care.

  • Fluffy||

    But food truck vendors don't pay property taxes and take business away from established restaurants!

  • ||

    Tulpa, it's not nice to spoof Fluffy.

  • ||

    I don't have problems with food trucks in general, but they have to accept that when you do business from a parking space, the city becomes your landlord and you need to do as they say.

    You don't like that, find a private interest with a parking lot and make a deal to park there. If that would necessitate moving away from the sidewalks in front of restaurants and make it harder to leech customers from them, so be it.

  • Anarchist||

    The restaurants deserve it for getting in bed with the man!

  • The Dickrider||

    I'm pretty sure someone headed into Le Bernadin isn't going to be distracted by the taco truck across the street.

  • ||

    I'm not worried about Le Bernadin, I'm worried about the El Loco Burrito that provides low-cost fare and does the hard work of building a customer base for the lunch hour only to be undercut by an essentially city-subsidized taco truck that parks outside their front door once they see there are people looking for Mexican food on the sidewalk there.

  • WTF||

    essentially city-subsidized taco truck

    I like how you turned 'not abused by regulation' into 'subsidized'. That definition was MNG-esque. Kudos.

  • ||

    They're doing business from city property, using street sewer drains for watery waste disposal, and dumping their business garbage into sidewalk garbage cans.

    That's a hell of a lot of subsidy.

  • Fluffy||

    If the city does not want the public to use its streets, its garbage cans, and its sewers, then it should not provide these services.

    Come on, this is the oldest statist dodge in the book, Tulpa: Provide a supposedly "public" service and then get angry when the "wrong" people use it, or use it in an unforseen way. OR to claim that using the supposedly "free, public" service traps you into an obligation to endorse the entire regulatory structure, or to defer to existing rentiers.

    Come on, man. Look at yourself.

  • l0b0t||

    "They're doing business from city property, using street sewer drains for watery waste disposal, and dumping their business garbage into sidewalk garbage cans."
    No, no we are not. Our watery waste goes into the tanks on our trucks until it gets emptied out back at the garage (just like every RV on the road) and our solid trash gets put into our own trash cans and schlepped back to the garage to be put into private dumpsters handled by a private waste carting company (NYC only collects household garbage, businesses must contract out their waste removal), NYC is also very aggressive when it comes to enforcing the long-standing ban on commercial/household trash being put into sidewalk garbage cans. Sorry Tulpa, I think you are incorrect in your view of this issue.

  • Apogee||

    Stop it with all these facts!

  • ||

    Good, I'm glad NYC forces you to pay for your own waste services etc. Fluffy's argument would seem to imply they shouldn't, though.

  • Apogee||

    I'm glad NYC forces you...

    Because if it were a real market - prices might reflect actual costs, instead of bureaucratic corruption!

  • l0b0t||

    "...I'm glad NYC forces you to pay for your own waste services etc."

    I see it from a different perspective. It is not that the city forces me, or any business to pay for refuse collection, it is that the city has never done any refuse collection other than residential. Leaving aside the fact that refuse collection in the NE US has a long-standing history of being dominated by a certain element, I am rather happy to be able to shop around and find the collection company that best fits my needs without any interference from city apparatchiks. My trash guy shows up within 20 minutes of my call, empties my bins and hoses them out. try getting the NYC Dept. of Sanitation to match that service at any price.

  • ||

    and hoses them out.

    WITH CITY WATER111!!!1one

  • Fluffy||

    I would reply that the public ways are for the public and if the city is going to charge people for access to them, doing so on the basis of the occupation of the person parking is inherently unfair.

    If the meter lets you park there for 2 hours for $1, that should apply to all vehicles that fit in the space. Whether you're in that space for the purpose the city planners intended or not.

  • Fluffy||

    Because the purpose of the public ways is to allow citizens the ability to move about and go about their business, and NOT to "provide X visitors an hour to the theatre district so they can spend $Y dollars a year at approved area businesses that belong to the Chamber of Commerce".

  • ||

    That's the purpose of traffic lanes and sidewalks, not parking spaces. Parking spaces are there to allow convenient access to businesses and residences nearby... not to run your own business from.

  • Fluffy||

    But that would mean that the intended use of the parking spaces is to privilege residents above and beyond other citizens, and I don't consider that a fair use of the public way.

    I'm not surprised you think that's what the spaces are for, though. That makes sense, given your other positions.

  • ||

    By that logic you could also just feed the meter and setup a table to hawk stuff. I believe there's a legitimate argument to be made to regulate that parking is for parking, and is not a lease of the space for whatever purpose you desire.

  • ||

    Technically, the fee you pay for a parking spaces is not actually a rental fee, it's a fee to cover the cost of parking enforcement. (Back when parking meters first appeared, some states tried to ban cities charging rent for parking spaces, so the alternative rationale was proffered and accepted by the courts.) You have no property-ish right over the parking space by feeding the meter.

  • ||

    Just like you have no property-ish right over your land by giving property taxes to the IRS?

  • Apogee||

    ...it's a fee to cover the cost of parking enforcement.

    And yet that money ends up where? Parking enforcement covers parking enforcement - they write tickets for illegally parked vehicles - big tickets. In fact, in many municipalities, various private companies compete for the contract for a small piece of the citation.

    It's a vehicle - it's parked legally - and they're not setting up tables on the sidewalk, or otherwise expanding beyond the vehicle. This is simply government attempting to take a piece of every single transaction.

    If I want a quick snack, I'll get food off of a truck. If I want service, a table, and a restroom, I'll go to the brick and mortar and expect to pay more for those additions, just like I expect to pay more to go to Le Bernadin than if I choose El Loco Burrito.

  • Fluffy||

    Yeah, I wouldn't have a problem with feeding the meter and setting up a table.

  • ||

    This is happening in NC too. Some restaurants were complaining that food trucks selling similar items parking near their establishment was taking away their business. I remember seeing a particular pizza business speaking out against it. Of course, I didn't hear him say anything about the pizza place sitting right next door.

  • Edwin||

    Half you idiot posters complaining probably have never been to NYC

    there are virtually no private parking spaces in manhattan - they have to park on public streets in the busiest city in the world. If you're parking on public streets, then it's reasonable to expect the city to regulate your parking.

    If the trucks were parking on private property it wouldn't be an issue, but they're not.

  • l0b0t||

    To be pedantic, a motor vehicle is not parked in NYC until it is unoccupied, it is defined as standing. One may stand in a no-parking zone but not in a no-standing zone, an important distinction in this case. While I agree that metered parking is provided for turnover (this is why feeding the meter is illegal) and is ill-suited for vending, many no-parking zones, fire plugs for instance, are ideal for occupied food trucks.

  • ||

    there are virtually no private parking spaces in manhattan

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • l0b0t||

    Yeah... there are private garages all over the city, possibly even more private parking than streetside. Over here in Brooklyn, Bloomberg is very busy tearing up all the streets and taking out traffic lanes to install concrete medians and other traffic calming devices. All of the roads running between Atlantic Av. & Eastern Parkway are now 1 lane in each direction instead of 2. This, as a giant new stadium complex is being built in the neighborhood.

  • Kat||

    It's like NYC is telegraphing reasons for people not to move there.

  • jtuf||

    Last September I was taking pictures on Wall Street to send to my friend in Egypt. I photographed a plaque about the 1st Amendment at the federal building where Congress passed the Bill of Rights. As I was returning home, I saw an officer harass a food truck vendor. I gave the officer the middle finger in protest. He cuffed me and put me in lock up for an hour.

    This would not happen in Tunisia today. It's time for the Arab Spring to come to NYC.

  • jtuf||

    In the Reason interview this week, Former Mayor Koch bragged that half of New Yorkers come from other parts of the World. This is embarrassing when you consider that New York City's population has remained stable for the past half a century, because it means half of native born New Yorkers dislike the city enough to move out.

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