Posted on February 24, 2010
File this under the “More than you ever wanted to know about the people who sell you hot dogs on the street” category. Starting January 1 of this year, food carts in New York that are left unattended can be seized by officials from the Department of Health. Street vendors protested yesterday in downtown Manhattan, claiming they are being unfairly singled out. They say they could lose their licenses if they even run into a store or restaurant, to, um, use the facilities. Vendors sometimes ask a friend to watch their carts while they’re away, but that’s not always possible. They say the law should be eliminated, or at least changed, to provide for necessary time away from the cart, like a bathroom break, health issue, or emergency. One peanut vendor near City Hall had his license taken away last week after leaving his cart to use a bathroom. (The vendor, who has worked for the last 12 years, was gone for about half an hour--he said that long lines prevented him from returning earlier.) Many supporters say that actually seizing the license was a first. Supporters of the law, however, say that leaving carts unsupervised, even briefly, is a public safety hazard. Department of Health of officials countered the vendors’ arguments by saying that short breaks are allowed (although the exact time vendors are allowed away from their carts has never been specified), but that the food must be secured before the vendors leave.