There’s only one reaction that a true New Yorker could have to this week’s report that Bay Ridge’s community board has again asked the city to bar food vendors from some of the neighborhood’s main commercial strips.
Give us a freakin’ break!
If there is anything that defines this city — and distinguishes it from the homogenized, generic dead zones that masquerade as urban centers in virtually every other big city in the country — it is the vitality of our street life.
Is it sometimes messy? Is it sometimes tumultuous? Certainly. But the alternative is block after block of suburban dystopia.
But even more important than the streetscape is the valuable service that licensed street food vendors provide. In an era when everyone needs to stretch the dollar, is there anything more welcome than a $3.50 falafel sandwich or a $4 chicken shawarma?
Last week, the board called on the city to ban food vendors from 86th Street between Fourth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway, as well as Fourth and Fifth avenues between 84th and 88th streets.
This is downright un-American.
For one thing, if the street vendors are, as the community board contends, causing litter or selling unsafe food, there is already an enforcement mechanism in place for the city to issue summonses or revoke licenses.
And, lest we forget, most of these food vendors are members of our communities, too — paying taxes, working hard, sending their kids to public schools. As such, their struggles are equally worthy of our attention as those of neighborhood restaurant owners.
But the larger issue — the supposedly unfair competition that benefits vendors — is simply a straw man. Competition among businesses is the only thing that ensures a vibrant business community.
What incentive would the owners of, say, Karam on Fourth Avenue have for holding down the price of their indescribably great chicken sandwich if there was not a street food vendor nearby selling a similar (though not as good) sandwich for a little less?
And Community Board 10 needs to heed the most important evidence that the public wants its street food vendors: they’re always busy with loyal customers!
Save our streets and save our lunches — keep the food vendors.