Park Ave. Building Manager Wants to Ban Food Trucks From His Doorstep
By Kiratiana Freelon on June 23, 2011 7:01am |
By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN EAST — A Park Avenue building manager is appealing to the city to ban parking in front of his lobby to banish food trucks he says have cost him thousands in damages.
Jose Toro, manager of Two Park Ave., a landmarked building between East 32nd and East 33rd streets, says the constant stream of food trucks that park in front of his building are angering his tenants, including Crumbs Bake Shop, Pret A Manger and Europa Café.
"Everyone ... complains, 'You've got to stop these food trucks. They're taking away our business,'" Toro said. "The last thing you want to see is a truck that sells halal food when I have Café Europa."
The situation has grown so bad, he claims, that a falafel truck that he had repeatedly asked to move purposely left a trail of grease on the sidewalk in front of the building in retribution. Toro claimed the mess cost him $4,000 to clean, including $1,700 to hire a crew with a power-washer.
Crisp falafel Truck owner Jack Rahmey adamantly denied the accusation and said he's always left the sidewalks clean. He said Toro will do anything to give the trucks the boot, citing pressure from his tenants.
"[He's] looking for any excuse," Rahmey said.
Toro said the problems began several months ago when the city moved a mid-block bus stop and installed new a Muni-meter.
"After that, they all started flying over here," said Toro, who added that now it's not unusual to see four of five trucks on the block.
Managers at Europa said they had complained frequently to Toro to keep the trucks at bay.
"It’s very difficult," Toro told members of Midtown Community Board 5's transportation committee Monday night, when he asked them to support his request to the Department of Transportation to create a new "No Parking" or "No Standing" zone 20-feet on either side of his lobby.
In addition to angering the eateries, he said that because the building's entryway is so narrow, a single truck parked in front can completely block light into the foyer, affecting everyone who works there.
He also said the also trucks pose a safety challenge, noting that last Friday, a UPS truck blocked a security camera's view of an attempted robbery at the building's Chase Bank.
He said he'll settle for a minimum distance of 5 to 10 feet food truck ban on either side of his doors to keep the trucks at bay.
But members of the board were mixed about the plan, with some arguing that it crossed the line.
"Everyone has a right to run their business," said board member Michael Keane in support of the street vendors. "Welcome to New York City," he said.
Others feared support for the ban could set a dangerous precedent, opening the floodgates to applications from commercial building across Midtown that would love to have private loading zones on their doorsteps.
But board member Nancy Aber Goshow argued more must to be done to clamp down on the trucks, which she said are usurping brick-and-mortar businesses.
"It's now a private use for a public space," she said, comparing letting trucks sell on city streets to opening private stores in city parks.
Colleen Chattergoon, a community liaison for the DOT, said that while the agency would be happy to look into parking changes, Toro shouldn't hold his breath.
"They pretty much can park whenever they want to park," she said of the trucks. "We have no control over them."
Toro's complaints to police did appear to have succeeded Tuesday, when lunch times passed without a single food truck on the block.
Food truck disputes have been escalating across Manhattan in recent months, as more and more have hit the street. On the Upper West Side, angry residents have demanded a crackdown. In Midtown, police have all but driven trucks off certain blocks in response to complaints.