Editorial: Give food trucks their own slice of the streets
If you get to the bottom of any fight in New York City, it's always about the real estate, right? We compete for a seat on the bus and for subway standing room. Pedestrians struggle for crosswalk space against a fuming, pushing phalanx of taxicabs and trucks. Pretty it ain't.
But food-truck vendors have it worse. They're engaged in an endless two-front battle for space -- competing with motorists who don't want them commandeering prime parking spots, and with proprietors of bricks-and-mortar restaurants who just want them to go away, period.
The result is chaos. But now Manhattan City Councilman Daniel Garodnick has introduced a measure that would end the food fights. Among other things, his bill would create 450 designated parking locations for food trucks citywide. If that number proves too small for this growing industry, the city could add more spaces later.
The upgraded regulations would be a big step forward.
The status quo goes something like this: Food vendor gets up early, finds curbside spot, feeds meter, parks truck, serves customers. Cops come by, point to law against vending in metered spaces, write ticket. Vendor pays fine, shrugs off experience as cost of doing business, carries on.
Food trucks are extremely popular in many parts of the city, even if traditional restaurateurs don't like them. They sell everything from artisanal ice cream to kimchee tacos and from Salvadoran pupusas to Chinese chive dumplings.
A council hearing this week explored ways the bill could be implemented. The Bloomberg administration likes a market-based approach that would let vendors bid on locations. The administration -- wisely -- is also calling for a provision to encourage vendors to convert to clean fuel and to low-emissions trucks and generators.
The trickiest question is how vending spots might be sited. Some neighborhood groups want to see the trucks clustered in a kind of food court. Others want the opposite -- with trucks spread out as thinly as possible -- to blunt their impact on standing businesses. Whatever. The goal is to let food trucks flourish and end the chaos.
Bring on the movable feasts.