Mobile vending is seeing attacks from all sides these days – California in particular is facing a battle over AB 1678 – but we never thought we’d see it in historically food cart-friendly New York City. Well, we thought wrong: the 34th Street Partnership, a “not-for-profit, private management company” comprised of property owners aiming to clean up the streets of Midtown Manhattan, is angling to wash those streets of its myriad food cart vendors.
According to AM New York, Dan Biederman – President of the 34th Street Partnership as well as the Chelsea Improvement Company and Bryant Park Corporation – has reached out to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office asking the city to exercise more discrimination as to which food carts are allowed to operate on Midtown’s streets, only allowing cleaned up food trucks and carts. (The group references Fruit-N-Juice and Wafels and Dinges as examples of acceptable “attractive” food carts.) He also went before the district’s local Community Board with complaints from local business and the organization about the vendors that sell hot dogs and falafel outside their doors:
“They are unsightly, and not particularly good citizens,” Biederman said of the carts and their vendors.
“They litter. They violate the rules frequently,” he said. “The fact that these are humble vendors doesn’t give them the license to be slobs.”
Way harsh, Biederman. There’s also the fact that not everyone considers food carts unsightly or bad citizens – actually, many have rallied behind the carts and their iconic status on the New York landscape. Huffington Post compiled the words of New York citizens and bloggers who have both spoken out in favor of food carts as an affordable (and tasty) lunch rush alternative to chain restaurants, and expressed concerns that sweeping food carts would put a lot of hardworking people out of business. Meanwhile, street vendor advocate Sean Basinski had this to say to AMNY:
“They may like the city to look one way, but I think most New Yorkers appreciate the vendors being there,” Basinski said.
“This is about what kind of city we live in and how it looks,” Basinski added. “Is it a city that just looks like Duane Reades and Starbucks and luxury buildings on every corner, or is it a city of individually owned, locally owned entrepreneurs and immigrants who are street vendors?”
This isn’t the first time that an attack has been made on New York’s street vendors, and it most likely won’t be the last. But as fans of mobile vending – of all types, not just the fancy kind – we’re rooting for the little guys in this battle.