South Street Seaport, Governors Island and Staten Island’s Midland Beach are some of the New York City destinations that have hosted food truck festivals–gatherings of 10 to 30 trucks– since the trend started four years ago. The above photo shows paper taco trucks, but real, live food trucks could roll into Coney Island this summer if a Brooklyn food blogger’s pitch to Community Board 13 is successful. On Monday, DevourNYC (“food blogging to the masses”) tweeted…
DevourNYC aka David Opancha followed up with tweets saying “the CB loved the idea and has it going through the channels. I’ll keep you updated” and “Sometime in the Summer. Trying to work out details. maybe during the mermaid day parade”
Does this mean King Neptune will get to savor Luke’s lobster rolls and Feed Your Hole’s grass-fed beef burgers? When ATZ contacted Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal, he confirmed that he liked the idea but stressed that the proposal was brand-new and would have to be discussed and approved by the Community Board.
The location? “Not in the amusement area, not abutting others selling the same food,” Reichenthal said. “It’s a question of finding the right spot and the right time where it would be good for the trucks and the community.” He noted that renting one of Coney Island’s empty lots even for a one-day festival would be prohibitively expensive,
Reichenthal had the idea of proposing to bring the food truck festival to one of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Seaside Summer Concerts. Last summer’s free concerts featuring Joan Jett, Aretha Franklin and Cheap Trick were moved from Asser Levy Park to a new location at Surf Avenue and West 21st Street.
While food trucks have become popular in New York City and across the country, they often face opposition from owners of brick-and-mortar eateries who say they cut into their profits. What will restaurant operators on the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue, who rely on sunny weather and busy days like the Mermaid Parade to make the season a profitable one, think of a food truck festival coming in?
”That would be terrible for us and I can’t believe they would allow that,” one veteran restaurateur who wishes to remain anon told ATZ. “I’m not sure they can do that, I don’t think it’s allowed.”
The City’s website does have a list of streets where mobile food vending is restricted. In Coney Island, Stillwell Avenue from Neptune Avenue to the Boardwalk as well as Surf Avenue and both sides of the Boardwalk from West 5th to West 20th Streets are prohibited 24 hours a day from May 1 to Labor Day, and 7 am to midnight during the rest of the year. The lot where the concert series is held is adjacent to 21st Street, which is just outside the restricted area.
Would a Food Truck Festival draw ginormous crowds who will spend money on Coney’s rides, games and still more food? Then all is good. But this year is a critical one for Coney’s eateries and a decision to bring in additional food vendors could be controversial.
Ruby’s Bar, Paul’s Daughter, Nathan’s and Tom’s are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring City-owned buildings up to code with gut rehabs and on rent. Cha Cha’s, Popeye’s and Steve’s Grill House have the high cost of relocating their evicted businesses. The majority are diversifying their menus. At the same time, there will be competition from the huge new Nathan’s on the Boardwalk as well as the food trucks and concession stands at Stillwell Avenue’s BK Festival, who undercut the brick-and-mortar restaurants’ prices while they don’t share the same costs. For example, all of the businesses on the Boardwalk are required to pay into the fireworks fund and for keeping the City’s restrooms open at night. And you thought it was free?
Community Board 13 meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 pm.
UPDATE March 11, 2012:
The Coney Island Food Truck Festival is a no-go for 2012. Yesterday, DevourNYC tweeted:
Sadly most of the lots that are empty in Coney are worth millions and thus too damned pricey to rent, we tweeted back.
“That was the problem and being that I wasn’t making a penny off of anything I wasn’t going to take money out of my pocket,” replied DevourNYC aka David Opancha via twitter. “I’m in contact with food truck association so I am going to let them know about big events going on.”
We wouldn’t be surprised to see his idea pop up in some way, shape or form in the future. Maybe food trucks without the festival?
Related posts on ATZ…
February 14, 2012: Last Coney Island 8 Holdout Sells Boardwalk Building
January 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island
November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk
October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy