Food Truck Laws

JESSICA BADER: Like many New Yorkers, one of the things I love most about my city is the ability to obtain delicious food at just about any hour of the day, whether it’s from a fancy restaurant or a little hole in the wall or one of the trucks that have recently¬†been the subject of heated debate. I have eaten dumplings and tacos and hamburgers topped with goat cheese from these mobile units of culinary delight, and I keep hoping for the day when Los Angeles’s Kogi truck or something like it comes here (that ESPN-sponsored truck for the World Cup is a nice start). Yet for all of that food truck love, I feel that much of the outrage in the recent food truck debate is somewhat misplaced.

The furor started when Jessica Lappin, who represents the Upper East Side in the City Council, introduced a bill that would revoke the license of a food truck that received three parking tickets within a year. I often look at the Twitter feeds of my favorite trucks to find out where they’ll be each day and what specials they’ll be serving, and shortly after this bill was introduced there were tweets condemning it and passing along petitions against it and accusing Lappin of wanting to eliminate food trucks. The hearing on the bill last week was no less contentious, and there could be more to come – while Mayor Bloomberg is opposed to Lappin’s¬†bill, he supports further regulation of food trucks.

I certainly don’t want food trucks to be eliminated, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that there be some consequences for parking illegally. What is the point of having laws about where and when a vehicle can park if trucks (or cars, for that matter) see ticketing as just a way to pay for being able to park wherever they want? Granted, I do not have a driver’s license and have never had to deal with finding a parking spot, but the streets are not garages with spots for rent. I also understand the frustration of those who have had to deal with food trucks being parked near their residences for extended periods of time. As much as I love being able to partake of food-trucky goodness on my lunch break, I’m not sure how well I would react to an ice cream truck being parked in front of the building where I live all evening.

This is an issue that affects many different groups of people with different needs and complaints – the food truck vendors, their customers, the trucks’ non-mobile competitors, residents of neighborhoods that are popular parking areas for trucks. It’s probably not possible to find a solution that makes everyone happy, but the truck proprietors aren’t doing themselves any favors by depicting stricter enforcement of parking laws as the apocalypse. While the battle continues, I’ll dream of a utopia where food trucks are the only motor vehicles on the streets and imagine something a little more plausible, like a mobile food court parked on one of those pedestrian-only stretches of Broadway.

Let’s be clear: food trucks belong in New York City. If you want to park, go to a lot.

Food trucks make this city what it is: the greatest buffet in recorded human history. And we want laws that only encourage additional food trucks, not laws that inhibit their ability to function.

Great artisans make food in food trucks. They can’t be worried about byzantine laws. They need to be making me lunch, or dinner, or some snack in-between lunch and dinner.

I resent any attempt to curb this astoundingly delicious part of the city landscape. And I call on all hungry citizens to vote with your mouths.

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