The recent surge of food cart vendors populating local neighborhoods such as Throggs Neck has not gone unnoticed.
Local elected officials and merchants are seeking a resolution to this growing concern.
According to Kenneth Kearns, Community Board 10 district manager, these food carts are licensed, however concerns have been raised about them blocking sidewalks and driveways, their food preparation, and the unfair competition they are creating for established neighborhood businesses and restaurants.
A prime example Kearns gave was a food cart in front of a CVS Pharmacy located at 3775 E. Tremont Avenue presently occupying space adjacent to a driveway.
He explained police looked into this particular food cart, but they could not charge the vendor with any wrongdoing as his mobile unit was up to code.
Kearns added CB 10 is currently collaborating with NYC Department of Consumer Affairs to better address this issue.
“The recent appearance of food vendors is very annoying in areas such as Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, and Co-op City whose residents never had these carts in their neighborhoods before,” Assemblyman Michael Benedetto explained.
“You see this same issue in Manhattan with sidewalk food vendors and we’re looking closely at modifying the current NYC regulations or even introducing legislation to prevent these issues from happening again. Until the city institutes more regulations, we ask people not to frequent these vendors,” he added.
Currently, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues a mobile food vending operator’s license and a mobile food unit permit. Both are required for someone to legally operate a mobile food vending business.
In addition, the maximum size limit for all mobile food vending units excluding food truck is five feet wide and ten feet high and the longer side of the cart must be stationed adjacent and parallel to the curb.
Food vendors cannot be stationed in the middle of the sidewalk as they would hinder pedestrian traffic and must be more than 20 feet from any residential and/or commercial establishment’s doorway.
The law was amended to permit food vendors to set up shop in front of competing stores under the guise of free enterprise.
This has since formed tension between food cart vendors and store owners who pay rent and other expenses to maintain their businesses whereas vendors do not.
“People are very upset about this,” Stephen Kaufman, Throggs Neck Merchants Association president revealed. “Our merchants pay rent, get harassed by traffic enforcement agents, and deal with other expenses and these vendors come into our neighborhoods selling unhealthy food, take up space as well as business from our hardworking merchants. We have police and local elected officials looking into this concern, but we must continue applying pressure on these vendors to resolve this issue.”
Kaufman said this issue will be addressed before TNMA’s board of directors at Wednesday, May 20’s evening meeting.
“We don’t believe it’s fair for our merchants to have to compete with these food vendors who do nothing, but take away revenue from our neighborhood’s already established businesses and something must be done to stop this from continuing,” Irene Guanill, Pelham Bay Merchants Association president said.
Guanill revealed PBMA drafted a petition asking to establish a non-vendor zone for Westchester, Buhre, and Crosby avenues as well as Middletown Road to help address this concern and added they hope to make both Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay into such zones.