Pel Bay pushcart ice war

Photo by Walter Pofeldt

Shop owners selling Italian ices along a Pelham Bay shopping strip are feeling a Big Chill from competing unlicensed pushcart vendors.

As temperatures soared over the summer, so have the sale of ices— but not for the businesses along Crosby Avenue.

Vito Occhiano, owner of Mangia Pizza at 1760 Crosby Avenue, said he is annoyed by local vendors selling ice on the corners – at cheaper prices.

“They’re not licensed,” Occhiano said. “All they have to do is just call up the guys who will rent them the cart – I think they pay something like $350 a week – they get their cart and they can start selling ice. There’s no control, you don’t know what you’re getting, and on top of it all the guy selling it can be fresh out of jail and he’s dealing with kids.”

According the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, anyone selling, leasing, or offering to sell or lease goods in public place that is not a store, must have a general vendor’s license, with several exceptions to the rule including “food.”

As of August 6, Occhiano said he had not started selling ices, because he’s still waiting for his permit.

“I haven’t made any complaints about it yet because I haven’t gotten my freezer and started selling ices yet,” he said.

Occhiano said he plans to contact Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office as soon as he starts selling ices to see if anything can be done.

“It’s not fair,” Occhiano said. “We pay taxes, we pay rent and they’re just walking around making profit. These guys tell a friend, who tells their cousin, who tells their brother and before you know it, there will be one on every corner.”

The other problem, Occhiano claims, is their pricing.

“They are selling those ices for a tenth of the price everyone else is,” he said. “They’re taking away our business.”

Vinny Leo, owner of Crosby Pizza Stop at 1731 Crosby Ave., agreed.

“They are trying to make money, and I understand that, but they are hurting everyone else,” Leo said.

Leo said his pizzeria sells five different flavors of ice, mainly for kids as an after-school treat.

“I used to sell three times the ice I sell now,” he said. “And I know it’s because of these guys. They are right there on the corner, so when the kids come from school they see them first. It’s more convenient.”

The pizzeria owner said he even tried lowering the price of his ices to $1.

“It didn’t help,” he said. “I think they are really hurting everyones businesses.”

Maria Fumoso, owner of Pelham Delite at 1650 Crosby Ave., said she doesn’t think the street ice vendors are effecting her business, but she isn’t happy they are there.

“For me it’s not a matter of them taking away my business,” Fumoso said. “They have factory ices, we make all of ours here fresh. We have many more flavors for people to choose from. The point is, these guys have no license to be here. The police have given them so many tickets I don’t know how they are still there.”

Fumoso said she is more concerned about the cleanliness of the carts.

“A lot of people say it is very dirty,” she said. “It’s not hygienic. It is a Board of Health issue and they should go after him. I would never let my kid or grandkid buy anything from there.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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