Vendors in the News and Street Vendor Pro Bono Project Meeting on Friday, 1/28

There has been a vendor struggle unfolding on 86th and Lexington over the past few weeks. The corner has been the home of Paty’s Taco Truck for the past three years.  While the overwhelming majority of people who live around 86th & Lex love the truck and welcome its presence, it has been the source of some controversy in the past year.  Last summer, motivated in large part by the presence of Paty’s Taco Truck on the Upper East Side, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin introduced a bill that would revoke the permits of food trucks if they receive three parking tickets.

While efforts to pass that bill seem to have stalled, Paty’s Taco Truck  has been targeted for enforcement of a traffic law which prohibits the selling of “merchandise” (not food) from a metered parking spot.  Last week, Paty’s truck was towed three times, and all three tickets were dismissed by the traffic court. A lingering legal question is whether or not the law even applies to food vendors — the vending laws in New York City consistently distinguish between “food” vendors and “general merchandise vendors,” and this traffic law clearly seems intended for the latter.

As the video below demonstrates, police seem to be responding to requests from the 86th Street Association to target Paty’s Truck.  The fight raises interesting questions about land use and who should be setting land use enforcement policy in the city — a private association, or the publicly elected City Council.  As SVP’s Legal Director, Matt Shapiro, notes in the video, “The 86th Street Association doesn’t make the law in this City, the City Council makes the law, and the judges interpret the law!”

If you are interested in vendors, justice and land use, this Friday (1/28) at 6PM, the Street Vendor Pro Bono project (a project of the BLS Environmental Law Society) will be having a meeting to discuss ways that law students can represent street vendors at the Environmental Control Board when vendors receive tickets, and how students can get involved in helping to pass the newly introduced bill which will dramatically lower the civil penalties which vendors face.

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