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Hoboken's Food Truck Owners Express Worry About Proposed Changes

Roughly 40 business and food truck owners as well as some local residents attended a public meeting on Tuesday night.

aren't official yet, many of the city's mobile food vendors expressed their concerns on Tuesday night, during a public meeting hosted by Council members Jennifer Giattiano and David Mello, as well as Director of Parking and Transportation Ian Sacs.

Before the rules can go into effect, another vote has to take place.

Sacs and Giattino fielded questions from the truck owners there as they maintained that the new proposed rules—which would multiply the truck owners' costs by about ten times from roughly $500 a year to about $5,000 a year—aren't meant to run the trucks out of town.

The trucks have been parking illegally, Sacs told the crowd of about 40 people. The new rules, he continued, are supposed to make the process "fair" and enforce parking rules. The current ordinance applies mostly to non-motorized food vendors, such as hot dog carts, Sacs explained. Since food trucks have increased in popularity and number, the ordinance needs to be updated, Sacs said.

The new rules would allow trucks to park in a metered spot for four hours—rather than two—as well as four hours on the visitors side of the street.

"We're not pulling the rug out from anybody," Sacs said.

But the food truck owners felt differently.

Hoda Mahmoodzadegan—who said she is planning to open a food truck together with her business partner Jason Avon, 25—called the new rules "completely outrageous."

Mahmoodzadegan, 26, said she is planning to open Molly's Milktruck, which will serve healthy, vegetarian food. Mahmoodzadegan said she is planning to move to Hoboken.

Now, she said she is worried about her new business plans. "I don't have that kind of money," she said.

Jason Scott of , Adam Sobel of , Joe Glaser of La Vita Bella and Ali Gomah of Ali's Food on Wheels (as well as others) were also present to express their concerns.

The new rules would also mean that trucks aren't allowed to park within 100 feet from a brick and mortar business that has a menu and that trucks have to be at least 25 feet apart while parked and open for business.

The truck owners said they don't mind being parked close together. 

Sacs said that the increased fees are necessary for the city to enforce the new policy. The proposed changes also include that truck owners install a GPS device—at their own cost—so that the city knows where they are when parked in town. This, Sacs said, will help with enforcing the parking regulations.

"The old fees," Sacs said, "are not based on reality."

Some residents expressed their support for the presence of food trucks in Hoboken. Erik Liberman, who has lived in Hoboken for four-and-a-half years, said that the vegan Cinnamon Snail lunch truck is the reason he still lives in town. 

Liberman said he became a vegan a year ago and enjoys eating at the vegan truck.

"Other than bars and Italian food," he said, "there's nothing else."

There are currently 16 food trucks in town, according to Giattino. The new rules set the limit at 25 licenses—both parking and vending, which are linked to each other—for motorized food trucks. For non-motorized food vendors—such as hot dog carts—the cap is set at 50, said Sacs. 

Some of the food truck owners raised concerns that the new rules were designed to protect the owners of brick and mortar businesses in town. While the discussion got heated every now and then, the meeting—which lasted two hours—was mostly civil.

The feedback from truck as well as business owners will be taken back to a subcommittee before the ordinance will appear in front of the city council again. The ordinance, with possible changes based on Tuesday's meeting, will likely be on the agenda for the Dec. 7 council meeting.

Until then, the food truck operators are back in the street, but remain worried.

Ali Gomah has been operating his food truck—Ali's Food on Wheels—for 17 years. His daughter Anna Gomah, 26, said she is worried about her father's business if the permit fees go up so drastically. The new parking regulations, she said, will force him to pick between serving breakfast or lunch.

"Choosing between breakfast or lunch is hard when this is your livelihood," she said. "When it's how you feed your family."

HOBO87 November 26, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Interesting topic. The paid Zimmer bashers are doing their jobs. But it's interesting some pro-Zimmer people favor the higher fee and others don't, unlike most topics about city policy where they all agree. IMO, if the fee is really going to be as high as $5k/year, then it's misconceived to make it fixed regardless of demand and what % of the time a given truck spends in Hoboken. For that much money, it's reasonable and worthwhile to auction the desired number of permits and let the market determine what they are worth consistent with the trucks still serving the customers (perhaps more than $5k for a truck always in Hoboken, who knows?), as well as make them transferable/shareable. So, Cinammon Snail and Taco can get together to bid for a permit, it just has to be displayed on whichever of those truck is in town at a given time. OTOH if the proposal is just a sop to the restaurant owners to get rid of the trucks by overcharging them for parking... I generally support Zimmer, given the truly ugly alternatives at this point, but a proposal like this shows the liberal Demorcrat biases (in this case, anti-market anti-competition) of most reformers in Hoboken. It's the same reason they have limited interest in cutting the city govt and therefore taxes.
davidd November 26, 2011 at 11:28 PM
I agree that an auction would be best. However the complexities and cost involved might preclude it. Also the idea of sharing a permit should definitely be explored. OTOH the fee seems reasonable from a market standpoint, its is $12 a day (plus the exisitng $8 in quarters) for a parking space that would be still more expensive on the open market. I am willing to subsidize shoppers but day in and day out businesses not so much. I would like to see the distance from a brick and mortar restaurant reduced, I paced out 100 ft, a restaurant at either end of the block would mean a truck couldn't park on that block! I don't know where the could park in the SE corner of the city.
Hoboken Answer November 26, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Petro you are always full of nonsense and utter garbage about Hoboken and you are no Hoboken taxpayer. Stick to the diatribes passkey about the wonderful work Petro did looting the BoE. There's only one person pushing for cutting spending and taxes and it's Mayor Zimmer who has been consistent at doing so. You pal Frank Raia and the Russo-Mason crew are consistent in fighting against ALL those efforts. The police reorg being one big example that saved millions. You ain't fooling anyone. Tell us how Petro voted on that illegal Raia construction contract at HoLa. Let's hear about that!
Hi November 28, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Councilwoman Jen Giattino who is the Chairwoman of the City Council committee looking into this has a detailed letter posted on Mile Square View today.
franksinatra November 30, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Ian Rintel -- the numbers you quote for 2010 and 2011, with the 9.8% decrease, are the same ones I'm using. The rate for 2009 was 1.937, so a 4.4% increase for 2010. The rate for 2008 was 1.771, so that's a 9.4% increase for 2009. The supporting documentation you ask for is the rates listed on our property tax bills. You have the same documentation I have. I have never said that Dawn isn't hard-working and honest so I don't know what you mean when you say I'm getting people to believe otherwise. I generally agree with you and Hobo87 here--I will vote for her until there is someone better. Meantime, if she's going to get better herself, she needs tough, constructive criticism and a constant reminder of her campaign promises, not the fawning support she often gets from her diehard fans. Unfortunately, Hobo87 is completely correct with his comment that bears repeating here: "I generally support Zimmer, given the truly ugly alternatives at this point, but a proposal like this shows the liberal Democrat biases (in this case, anti-market anti-competition) of most reformers in Hoboken. It's the same reason they have limited interest in cutting the city govt and therefore taxes."

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