NYC Street Food Vendor Advocates Seek Leeway During COVID-19 Crisis

A food truck owner was reportedly fined on Friday, something he claims has never happened before.

While Los Angeles has been trying to get street food vendors to shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City is currently dealing with the opposite problem: Advocates are reportedly calling on the city to give street vendors in the Big Apple even more leeway as they try to make a living during these incredibly difficult times.

Street Vendor Cart in New York City
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On Friday, the food truck DiSO’s Italian Sandwich Society tweeted out a video showing New York City police officers ticketing the truck, with Eater NY later reporting that owner Adam Disilvestro had been fined $65 for not having his mobile food vending permit on him, something he told the site he has “not once been asked in his seven years of business.”

With the city under lockdown, the implication would seem to be that traffic agents don’t have as much to monitor as they usually would, but Disilvestro believes it’s not fair that they fill their time by going after food trucks. “A $65 ticket isn’t going to break us, but it shows a lack of compassion,” he was quoted as saying. “These officers know what we’re going through.”

Apparently, City Council member Margaret Chin agrees. Today, Eater followed up on the story, explaining that Chin and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca had written a letter to the mayor asking the city to wave enforcement on vendors while the COVID-19 lockdown is being enforced. Six other council members apparently signed on as well. “Instead of spending time on squeezing money out of immigrant workers who are suffering from record losses and are increasingly worried about how they’ll put food on the table, our city needs to create a comprehensive relief package that is inclusive of all types of businesses and workers, and that includes street vendors,” Chin was quoted as saying in a statement.

Meanwhile, business has been so slow, many street food vendors have reportedly closed up shop in recent weeks. “Business has dropped 80 to 90 percent because there’s no one out here,” Disilvestro added when discussing his citation. “Everyone on staff has already taken hour and pay cuts. I’m just trying to help my guys make a little extra money.”

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