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A state lawmaker wants to allow more street vendors to legally set up shop across New York by lifting the cap on the number of permits issued statewide. The legislation put forth by State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who represents parts of Queens, would let municipalities decide where sidewalk vendors could operate. “The idea is to decriminalize street vending and do away with caps so that every vendor goes through the appropriate inspections,” Ramos told Gothamist.
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According to a recent report by Food Truck Nation, New York City takes 9th out of the top places to run a food truck. The report ranks three categories: ease of obtaining permits and licenses, complying with restrictions and operating a food truck. And with a composite score of nine, NYC is falling behind other cities, specifically Portland, Denver and Orlando which take the top three spots, respectively. Based on the data, obtaining permits and licenses is what drags the city’s scores down, falling to spot 26. Some cities have many fewer barriers to entry. For example, Denver requires ten different procedures to obtain a license, whereas Boston has a whopping 32. Unsurprising, Denver has 594 food trucks in operation.
But Adam Sobel, the owner of Cinnamon Snail, the vegan food truck which is ranked as the top food truck in the New York City by The Daily Meal, has stopped running its food truck business on the streets of New York. Sobel only uses his food trucks for special events a few days a week, like farmers markets, because he says that every food truck on the streets of New York is basically illegal.
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Before the end of her tenure on Dec. 31, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is making an eleventh-hour push for legislation aimed at expanding the city’s food vending industry. As Politico New York reported, the bill adds 335 more licenses for food vendors over 10 years, with 35 set aside for veterans. Currently, there are 5,100 licensed food vendors in the city. While the bill’s passage could be a victory for immigrant workers, many who make a living working on food trucks or carts, although sometimes on the black market, critics say increasing the number of permits allowed for rent-free vendors could hurt brick-and-mortar shops.
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To fully experience New York City, you have to eat. And then eat some more. So inextricably linked with its food, the city’s social and cultural history requires an exploration of its endless cuisines. And while street food is not unique to New York, the city provides some of the most diverse dining options in the world, with over 10,000 people make a living by street vending. But this tradition dates all the way back to the 1600s when European settlers enjoyed eating shellfish on the streets. Food vendors took on a more formal incarnation in the early 1800s on the Lower East Side and have changed with every new immigrant group that’s landed here since. From oysters and knishes to hot dogs and Halal, the city’s street vendors reflect its constant evolution and also what brings New Yorkers together.
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Images: Scarface home (left), 41st St hotel (right)