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Paty's Taco Truck Returns to the Upper East Side

By Amy Zimmer | January 12, 2011 12:08pm | Updated on January 12, 2011 1:06pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UPPER EAST SIDE — Paty's Taco Truck is back.

After facing mounting pressure from the NYPD and some community members, the popular food truck had been ousted from its spot last month on Lexington Avenue between East 86th and East 87th streets where it had been dishing out burritos, cemitas and its coveted tacos de lengua for more than two years.

But Paty's returned to the Upper East Side last Wednesday, said Alberto Loera, who had been arrested while working at his mother's truck on Nov. 30 following a month-long ticketing blitz.

So far, Paty's is only setting up shop here at night, from 7 p.m. — when the parking regulations are no longer in effect — until 10 p.m., before heading down to its usual late-night spot around Union Square Park.

"We saw a Halal food truck there opening from 6 to 10 [p.m.] and no one was telling them they had to go," Loera said on the phone, explaining the rationale behind his truck’s return. "We started coming at 7 p.m. and no one was telling us anything."

Some Upper East Siders have complained about food trucks ignoring rules against feeding meters and remaining too long in one parking spot. Paty's faced particular scrutiny because the truck gave out menus which listed its hours and address, far beyond allowable meter regulations, they said.

Loera said the truck would move every hour or so to comply with rules.

On the day of his arrest, police first gave Loera a summons for operating a vehicle in a restricted area.
 They asked him to move and claimed he refused. He claimed he told them he had to wait for his mother who drives the van since he has no license.

Loera was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration. The police confiscated the truck and allegedly removed much of its contents.

When Loera's family got it back from the tow pound, they had to take out a $5,000 loan from a relative to restart the business.

They initially went during the day to Morningside Heights before moving to the Broadway and 86th Street, where Paty’s will continue feeding daytime crowds until Jan. 18, Loera said.

Next Tuesday, he said, the truck plans to return to the Upper East Side during the day, with the support of advocates from the Street Vendors Project, a group that is currently mounting a campaign fighting fines up to $1,000 that vendors face.

Many hungry New Yorkers on their way home from work on Tuesday night were delighted to see Paty's back in the neighborhood.

"I love the burritos. My favorite is the Norteno,” said Sandra McCollum, who planned to bring hers on the subway ride home to Canarsie where she’ll reheat it in the microwave. "I want the delight of eating it while sitting at my table.”

Barkha More, an accountant who lives a block away, was so sad the truck had disappeared, after researching its whereabouts online, she planned a trek to Union Square to get her fill.

"I looked for the truck online,"said More, who would get food from Paty’s weekly. "Their veggie tacos are really good.”

"We've been waiting to eat at this truck for a while," said Erica Matson, 23, who passed the truck after leaving the subway, walked eight blocks home, watched a "Seinfeld" episode and came back to get three beef tacos. "I would smell it whenever I got out of the subway. Perhaps absence makes the stomach grow fonder. When it came back and I smelled it again, I had to have it."

Loera, who works during the day while his relatives do the night shift, is looking forward to being back in his old spot.

"I was scared after they arrested me," Loera said, "but with [the Street Vendor Project's] support, I feel more confident."