Beginning on Sept. 9, the city sent food trucks to designated areas in the five boroughs most affected by Ida to offer free food to residents of the area. The program — a joint effort by the NYC Emergency Management Office and the New York Food Truck Association — has stationed food trucks from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., which serves 1000 portions per truck.
Earlier this month, Ida devastated neighborhoods across NYC leading to in-home drownings at residences and rainfall forcing New Yorkers out of their homes. Since that time, various food trucks, including Westchester Burger Co., and Nathan’s, have occupied the intersection of Lafayette and East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. The city also doesn’t require someone to have been affected by Ida to receive the food.
“It was a good idea in thought, but it’s hurting local businesses,” said Bobby Jaen, executive director of the Throggs Neck Business Improvement District. “Instead of hitting a home run, [they] struck out miserably.”
Local business owners and leaders in Throggs Neck believe issues with the placement of free-food vehicles and misuse of relief aid resources is hurting small businesses still making a post-pandemic recovery.
The program roll-out, the Throggs Neck business community says is “improper” and has created a mess. Jaen said that when business owners have called the city for truck removal for vehicles blocking their storefronts, they had not received a response from the NYC Emergency Management Office or the New York Food Truck Association.
The Bronx Times also did not receive a response from either organization before press time.
The city, under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, first started its partnership with the NY Food Truck Association for disaster relief following Superstorm Sandy sweeping through the city in 2012. That partnership, according to NY Food Truck Association officials, served 278,000 free meals and dispatched as many as 32 trucks dispatched to strategic locations across the five boroughs on any given day post-Sandy.
“Our partnership with the Mayor’s Fund took shape very quickly and it allowed us to expand efforts immediately with coordinated logistics,” said David Weber, president of the New York Food Truck Association said in a statement. “We were able to integrate with the City’s emergency response effort so that we could provide hot meals when and where people needed them most.”
But business officials in the Bronx said that wasn’t the case after Hurricane Ida.
Jaen, who on Monday said he’s had to relocate the trucks from the Throggs Necks business corridor, suggested better-suited locations for the food trucks such as Crosby Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard which has access to schools.
He also noted a nearby stretch from Lafayette Avenue and Tremont Avenue located by PS 92 on East 179 Street.
“What better place to have one of those trucks when families are coming to get their kids,” Jaen said. “Every family has to go to one of these locations to pick up their kids and wouldn’t that be an appropriate place to put these trucks?”
Businessowners like Nathan Giraldi, owner of Cousins Pizzeria, 3579 E. Tremont Ave., feel they are being undercut by free food trucks sited mere blocks from their business. Giraldi told the Bronx Times that the food trucks destroyed his lunch hour business for more than a week.
“I was pretty upset they were opposite my business,” he said. “They totally destroyed my lunch; nobody showed up for lunch. These food trucks wreaked havoc on my business.”
Worst of all, Giraldi said he saw some of his own regular customers standing on line for the food trucks.
“This was done totally incorrectly,” he said. “My customers were on his line. It wasn’t really serving the affected people. You had everybody pulling over getting free food.”
Throggs Neck business leaders believe this recent issue is one of a litany of what they consider “anti-small business” measures under the outgoing Bill de Blasio administration.
“The city doesn’t care about small business,” Jaen said. “De Blasio has been against small business the whole time.”
Reach Robbie Sequeira at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4599. Reach Christian Falcone at email@example.com or (718) 260-2541. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.