Food cart owners in Jackson Heights and Corona say most of them already sweep around their trailers, but hope the launch of a new initiative will stop the blame from falling on those who don’t offend.
Street vendors, as part of a volunteer pilot program in City Council District 25, which includes Roosevelt Avenue from 82nd Street to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, will clean a 20-foot radius around their carts and provide trash cans.
Those owners who have signed the symbolic contract pledging these items will have a circular sticker on their cart showing their commitment to the program, which was launched Tuesday by VAMOS Unidos, a nonprofit advocating street vendor rights, and Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
“We want people to know that we know this is an issue,” food cart owner Samuel Noor said.
Noor has served his Vendy Award-winning rice and chicken, samosas and other Middle Eastern foods since 2003 from his cart, which he parks near the pedestrian plaza on 74th Street.
Noor, of Flushing, employs five people at his business and said long before be slapped the sticker on his trailer he had been cleaning around his station.
“It’s tight times and it’s easy to point fingers at others,” Noor said, “but we aren’t outsiders. We live here.”
“We pay taxes too,” he said.
Jeff Orlick, who gives weekly tours of the best food places in the neighborhood, agreed that it’s a good way to keep a balance between cart and restaurant owners.
“It is a nice show to the business owners that [the food carts] are doing their part,” Orlick said. “I think it’s great that Danny Dromm is trying to find a way to coexist, not eradicate.”
“Remember that vendors are human being with families too,” Dromm said.
At a town hall hosted by Community Board 4 last Wednesday community members from LeFrak City on Junction Boulevard and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Corona) brought up points of contention with the carts. Ferreras said she was concerned about the drainage from the subway overpass on Roosevelt Avenue and how it could drip onto the food, causing a dangerous mix. She also wanted better regulation of how many carts could be located on one block.
Alfonzo Marin has sold arepas, a Colombian dish made with cornmeal, for the last 30 years. He has not always operated with a license, he said because of city bureaucracy, but for the last year he has run his mobile business legally. He has pledged to keep his area clean and offer a place to toss leftover food and wrappers.
“We make contributions to the economy because we buy and sell here in Jackson Heights,” Marin said. “We live here too.”
VAMOS Unidos plans to expand the pilot to other neighborhoods including in the Brooklyn district overseen by Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn), another lawmaker who has expressed interest in adopting it, according to VAMOS Unidos Executive Director Rafael Samanez.
“It is these kinds of pro-worker, pro-community projects that improve neighborhoods,” Samanez said.