May 25, By Jason Cohen
State Senator Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and the IDC (Independent Democratic Conference) passed a senate bill Tuesday requiring food vendors to post letter grades on their carts on the same day he released a lengthy report detailing the worst pushcarts in the city.
The introduction of the letter-grading system will provide consumers with more information as to the cleanliness of food carts, according to Peralta. Currently, food carts are inspected by New York City’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene but the reports not made public.
“A vast majority of street vendors support a letter grading system, since it brings increased legitimacy to their businesses,” Peralta said in a statement. “With this more transparent system in place, consumers will have fewer worries about their food being unsafe when they pick up a falafel, a hot dog or a taco on the go.”
The bill was recently introduced in the state assembly but has yet to come up for a vote.
One of the trade groups came forward Tuesday supporting the measure.
“We think food trucks should be held to the same food safety regulations as brick-and-mortar restaurants, not only including letter grades, but also addressing the onerous food safety permitting process for food truck employees,” said Ben Goldberg, founder and CEO New York Food Truck Association, which represents more than 20 food truck owners.
Peralta also passed legislation that would establish a vendor policy commission in New York City to review and study the mobile food service and pushcart industry. The commission would be comprised of nine members, with appointments by the DOHMH, the commissioner of consumer affairs, mayor, city council speaker and an immigrant advocacy organization.
The group would review the number of permits issued to vendors, zoning regulations and the location of vendors. The commission would submit recommendations on improving the industry to the mayor and city council.
Peralta also released a report titled “Grades-on-the-Go,” which he said indicates the need for the two measures.
His office and the IDC examined health inspection data for the last three years, with a particular emphasis on 2016. In total, they reviewed 7,071 inspections that year, in which 7,861 violations were issued, with many locations receiving multiple violations. Outside of Manhattan, Queens has the most pushcart activity and it had 1.09 violation per inspection.
The study found that 35 percent of the citywide inspections in 2016 led to no violations being issued. Another 39 percent of inspections led to a single violation being issued, with a quarter of the inspections resulting in more than one violation being issued. There were 234 pushcarts temporarily closed until the health hazard was removed and 10 were closed on two different occasions.
They also reviewed the most common types of violations in 2016. The most common violation issued to vendors was for being in too close to a driveway, subway stop or crosswalk, or being in a bus stop. Inspectors issued 1,044 of these violations in 2016.
The next most common infraction was for being too close to a display window or within 20 feet of a building entrance, with 1,013 of these violations issued.
The third most common violation was a failure by the cart operator to keep all their equipment in or under the cart to avoid sidewalk clutter, as is mandated by regulations. This violation was issued 1,005 times.
Other violations were foods held above 41 degrees Fahrenheit, failure to use thermometers as required, food stored improperly, no soap devices for hand washing and failure to maintain personal hygiene.