WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A recent crackdown on illegal food trucks has left uptown vendors uncertain when they will serve their next round of burgers, fried pork rinds and fruity juices.
Police joined the Department of Health (DOH) in an inter-agency inspection of four Dominican-style food trucks that operate along Amsterdam Avenue in the 170s last week, leaving only one on the streets.
According to DOH, the trucks were confiscated for a variety of reasons.
The first was seized for violations including “cold food above 41 degrees Fahrenheit, inadequate lighting, no proof of the truck being serviced and an unclean cart.”
Police towed the truck when the vendor was unable to start the vehicle when asked to move, a DOH spokeswoman said. Trucks must be maintained in mobile condition.
The second was removed after inspectors found it did not have a permit decal, the truck was deemed unclean and “excessive propane tanks were found,” according to the DOH.
The third truck was confiscated with no owner present, as it appeared “abandoned” with no permit decal and “excessive propane tanks and unattended food on the truck.”
The fourth truck passed the inspection and has been slinging chimis, a Dominican burger, all week.
“We have all of our paperwork and licenses,” said a worker at El Primo pointing to a decal on the side of the truck. “We pay a lot of money monthly to make sure everything is in order.”
All four trucks sold their food near Highbridge Park along Amsterdam Avenue, between 173rd and 176th streets, under the operating name Vendedores de Frituras y Chimichurri de Washington Heights.
At last month's Community Board 12's economic development committee meeting, residents complained about raucous crowds that gather at the trucks late at night.
According to the Parks Department, the five-year agreement made between them and the operators is contingent on the vendor maintaining valid permits from the DOH and ensuring compliance with its regulations.
“They will not be permitted to operate until they resolve their issues with [the Department of Health],” Phil Abramson, a spokesman for the Parks Department, said.
Two of the three trucks confiscated were back on Amsterdam Avenue on Sunday.
Dolores Jiménez, a Washington Heights woman who works at the truck that is still in police custody, said her employer has been working with police to get the truck back and reopen for business.
The owner was not available for comment.
“We’ll be open soon,” Jiménez said. “We made a mistake, that’s all.”