Food Trucks

Widely Unpopular Bill de Blasio Leads Major Crackdown on Highly Popular Ice Cream Trucks Over Unpaid Parking Tickets

New York's parking regulations make numerous traffic tickets just another cost of doing business for the city's food trucks.

|

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a lot on his plate right now, having to both run the government of the country's largest city while also campaigning for the country's highest office. Neither responsibility, however, has interfered with the Democratic presidential candidate's ability to execute a major crackdown on ice cream trucks.

On Wednesday, New York launched Operation Meltdown, seizing 34 ice cream trucks and filing a lawsuit against their owners alleging that they engaged in a fraudulent corporate shell game to avoid paying millions in traffic and parking fines. Another 12 targeted ice cream trucks escaped the sweep and are currently being hunted down.

"No New Yorker is above the law—especially those who try to ignore public safety laws," said de Blasio in a Wednesday press release. "This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors."

The city's lawsuit targets six ice cream vendors who, between them, own and operate a fleet of 76 trucks. Together, these trucks racked up some 22,495 traffic violations between 2009 and 2017, resulting in $4.5 million in unpaid fines. The city is only going after the 46 trucks that racked up more than $10,000 in fines. A few of these trucks had unpaid fines in excess of $100,000, according to the city's lawsuit.

In its complaint, filed Wednesday, the city alleges that the ice cream truck owners played an elaborate game of corporate hot potato. After earning a sufficient number of traffic tickets, a truck would be transferred from one dummy corporation to another (all of which have names like Twirly Twirl Ice Inc. or Minus Below Inc.) in an alleged attempt at foil city debt collectors.

"The collection division of the Department of Finance attempted to collect this debt through traditional means of demand notices and information subpoenas to banks, but was unsuccessful," reads the city's press release. "The Department found the debtors never had bank accounts, and any trace information to the corporate defendants no longer existed by the time the Department attempted to reach them."

In addition to the alleged fraud, the city argues these "scofflaw ice cream vendors" are also a danger to public safety.

"Defendants' trucks create dangerous situations and disrupt City traffic flow by stopping, standing, or parking in crosswalks (846 violations) or adjacent to fire hydrants (1,192 violations); defendants' trucks ignore red lights (93 violations), and block access to pedestrian ramps (63 violations)," reads the city's complaint. Those instances represent about 10 percent of the traffic tickets these trucks are said to have accumulated.

City law currently bans selling merchandise—including food—from metered parking spaces. Since virtually every parking space in the city is now metered, tickets for that offense have become a routine cost of doing business, says Ben Goldberg, CEO of the New York Food Truck Association (NYFTA), a business group.

Food trucks "have to legally get tickets in a way because there are no locations in New York that are good that are not metered. The trucks understand that it's just a cost of doing business," Goldberg tells Reason while stressing that NYFTA members are required to pay any parking tickets they receive.

The constant fines are a major burden on vendors. Goldberg says that any food truck business that is looking to expand or grow their operations has to look away from servicing city streets and focus on working special events where parking isn't an issue.

In this context, the city's ice cream raids seem to have less to do with public safety, and more to do with enforcing outdated parking regulations that bedevil all mobile food vendors.

Many of the workers of these ice cream trucks are certainly no better off after yesterday's seizures.

"This is not good. I'm trying to make some money. I got a family, I have to support them," one driver said to the New York Post.

"I'm just angry because I'm not going to have a good summer. I work seven days a week for three months (in the summer). In the winter I'm going back to college…Now all my plans have changed," another driver told the Post.

That's not to say that the defendants are noble victims. Provided the city's claims are true, they've engaged in blatant fraud.

They have also potentially been screwing over their workers. One ice cream truck worker affected by the truck seizures told the Post that he'd been assured the tickets he'd accrued were being paid and that his wages were garnished to cover the fines.

Goldberg says that regardless of vendors' frustrations with the current regulations, the best way the food truck industry can affect change is through normal, perfectly legal lobbying.

I think that's right. Nevertheless, one can't ignore the role that existing parking regulations play in incentivizing some bad actors in a tight market to color outside the lines.

NEXT: Washington Court Reaffirms That Florists Must Serve Same-Sex Weddings

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Going after ice cream trucks for parking tickets is a sure way to take the White House.

    Crazy like a fox, he is.

    1. Christ, what an asshole.

      1. Beat me to it.

  2. The best way to build public support for changing bad laws is to enforce those bad laws.

    I do have to say its hard to feel sympathetic for these ice cream truck vendors if they are switching owners of the trucks regularly in an effort to ignore the rules of the road. Not saying the rules are great or justified, just that its predictable that the trucks will get confiscated when the city has a $4.0 million receivable from you and you’re systematically avoiding paying the fines.

    1. Good point. But, DiBlasio isn’t doing this to show its a bad law. He is doing it because he is an asshole. If the truck owners lined his pockets, the fines would be happily ignored.

    2. The best way to build public support for changing bad laws is to enforce those bad laws.

      I’m not entirely convinced that is true. Most bad laws only affect a small part of the population, so most people don’t care and assume that they must have been doing something wrong to deserve punishment.

      1. You could be right, I don’t know. But, I would argue in this specific case that parking and road laws apply to a large portion of the public.

      2. So what you are saying is that the reason most people are not libertarians is a lack of empathy? It’s almost as if that were a good thing to bring up when debating politics.

        1. I’m sorry.
          I love you, Chipper.

        2. No, I was initially correct.
          Suck my greasy turds, sea person conspirator.
          I know what you did.
          Trying to beguile us with “empathy.”
          Fucking dickcheeseasshole.

  3. DiBlasio is going after people who drive ice cream trucks for unpaid parking tickets. Meanwhile, his wife can’t account for $850 million in taxpayer money. But he will happily throw some guy in jail and ruin his life over shorting the city out of a $20 parking ticket.

    If there is a posterchild for the modern prog, it is not Warren or AOC. It is DiBlasio and his bitch wife looting the taxpayers blind while throwing people in jail for unpaid parking fines. That is who these people are.

    1. Just like every other communist leader ever.

    2. $4.5 million fines /22,495 tickets = $200.04 ea

  4. Christ, what an asshole. He even looks like a pig.

    1. +1 Animal Farm

    2. You have to be one to command the city’s finest ungulates towards prodigious fuckwadery.

    1. #nottheonion

  5. No New Yorker is above the law…

    He said with tears in his eyes, choking back involuntary convulsions of laughter.

  6. This reads like parody, or the first part of an Aesop’s fable.

    Can’t wait for Chapter 2: Comeuppance – The Moral of the Story

  7. If they still blare “POP Goes the Weasel” on a continuous loop, De Blasio will get my vote if he executes them on the spot.

  8. You don’t count as a ice cream truck if your ice cream is actually chilled and creamy smegma, right?

  9. fuck you deblasio, you’re a fucking ass hole.

  10. We should give DeBlasio a swirly, and then tie him to the tether ball pole.
    Childish humiliation is what this asshole deserves.

    1. Only if followed by a Nicolai Caucescu style death.

  11. “I’m your ice cream man, baby/
    Stop me when DeBlasio dies/
    He’s got 37 Anti-Liberty ideas/
    Guaranteed to satisfy!*”

    *Satisfy the fantasies of statist nannies

    1. Great song.

      It has this bluesy feel. It is played on drums as a straight up backbeat. Snare on 2 and 4. Kick on 1 and 3. Don’t try and shuffle it. Fills are just one strokes.

      Anyway what happened to the ice cream trucks?

      I am left taking care of the 4 year old granddaughter on a hot day in Georgia. We have the hose and kiddie pool out. Along comes the ice cream truck. So we had sponge bob ice cream with bubble gum eyes way too close to dinner time.

      That was a good day.

  12. I forgot about the libertarian “highly popular” exception to generally-applicable laws. The unpopular pleb that gets a parking ticket can go fuck himself blind and enjoy his driving license suspension but you better not fuck with our precious food trucks. Some of them are probably even owned by Muslims!

    1. What a dumb response.

      At no point does Britschgi make the argument that food trucks should be exempt from the rules. She argues, rightly, that the problem is with the laws and city management and, again rightly, that De Blasio is hypocritical because he holds himself and his staff above the law.

      At best you could see Britschgi as arguing that merchants should be able to use metered parking for their services, esp when there is such limited access to NON-metered parking.

      She even calls out the food trucks for their fraud and says they ought to be held accountable for it. C’mon, dude, did we even read the same article?

  13. NYC is not worth saving.

  14. Committing “fraud” to avoid cruel and unusual regulatory regimes should not be considered criminal.

  15. Where I come from, ice cream trucks are how children disappeared forever, so this seems like small potatoes.

    1. Let’s keep your personal sexual fantasies out of the comments section, please.

    2. And yet you’re still here. Even as a child pervy kid snatcherz knew you were a retarded asshole.

      1. On the contrary, they tried to get me many times. I was just quick on my feet.

  16. […] Indian-Pakistani former vendor said as police towed away his workplace.  “There are so many outdated laws and codes, literally anywhere I park is illegal to sell food […]

  17. Any attempt, conspiracy or plan to frustrate useless and unjustified government rules and regulations should be wholeheartedly supported.

    Furthermore any actions that frustrate the useless war on drugs are time well spent.

    F- our out-of-control and useless overlords.

  18. deASSio!

  19. “”Defendants’ trucks create dangerous situations and disrupt City traffic flow by stopping, standing, or parking … adjacent to fire hydrants (1,192 violations)”

    Parking next to a fire hydrant and leaving the vehicle creates a dangerous situation. Stopping next to a fire hydrant and remaining with the vehicle does not. Only power-mad politicians, government bureaucrats, and cops become revenue generators cannot see the difference.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.