A Brief History of Street Vending in New York City
Yesterday we linked to a Crainís report that has revenue from some food trucks down a whopping 70%, a fact that undoubtedly has to do with food truck owners struggling with unclear laws, a barrage of parking tickets, and other difficulties that make operating their small businesses much more difficult than it should be. Yet this is nothing new, just the latest batch of regulations and restrictions street vendors have had to overcome for centuries.
Since vending from pushcarts has always been a great way for new immigrants to get a start in their new country, the food has changed with the wave of immigrant groups that have come through this city. The earliest street food was not hot dogs or pretzels, but in fact oysters and clams. At one time, this was the food of the masses and even the poorest citizens ate oysters for dinner. As European immigrants continued to come to New York, the street food changed to hot corn, pickles, knishes, and sausages. In the 1970ís and 80ís, it was predominantly Greek souvlaki and kabobs being sold from carts. And then as the Muslim population increased, so did the halal carts which now make up most of our lunches here in Midtown.