Government Law

Archaic Law Being Used to Roust NYC Food Trucks

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One branch of New York City government—the parks department—is wooing gourmet food trucks to set up shop in the city’s parks in an effort to provide the working masses an array of quick and convenient lunchtime options.

But another branch of city government—the police department—has begun shooing food trucks away from their usual outposts under an obscure 1950s-era law barring vendors from parking at a metered space and selling merchandise out of their vehicles.

The police are apparently responding to a May 24 ruling in a lawsuit by the Street Vender Project, an advocate for vendors, which sued the city last year on behalf of a vendor whose taco truck was towed several times and whose operator was arrested, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The judge held that food is merchandise subject to regulation under a city transportation department regulation dating back to the 1950s that says no “vendor, hawker or huckster shall park a vehicle at a metered parking space” to offer “merchandise for sale from the vehicle.”

“Until now, this law was very inconsistently enforced,” David Weber, president of the New York City Food Truck Association, which represents 24 vendors, told the Times, “but now (the judge’s) decision is trickling down to the precincts.”

Vendors say they suspect police are responding to complaints by brick-and-mortar businesses who resent the competition.

But a department spokesman said the police are just “enforcing the law as it has been interpreted by the court.”

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