Thursday, March 22, 2012

Roosevelt Island Mobile Food Trucks Now Allowed In Prime Area Near Subway Station But $345 Monthly Fee Imposed By RIOC - Fascinating Look At How RIOC Decisions Are Made

Image of Rickshaw Dumpling Food Truck From The Food Channel

As reported last night:
Excellent news from today's Operations Committee meeting. After a very long and sometimes lively discussion, RIOC Operations Committee decided to allow up to 3 mobile food trucks to serve the Roosevelt Island community from the West Channel Road north of the subway between the Starbucks and Blackwell Turnaround. This location is in addition to the previously agreed locations for street and mobile food vendors at:

Lighthouse Park
Octagon Soccer Field
Existing Farmers Market
Existing Fruit Stand Market on Sidewalk by Subway/Duane Read
the Tram Station and
Southpoint Park

RIOC still intends to charge a permit fee of $345 a month but it is possible that may be reduced or eliminated in the future. My understanding is that New York City charges $200 for a similar permit over a 2 year period.
Here's the video of last night's Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Operations Committee meeting.

It's a fascinating look at how decisions are made on Roosevelt Island.

The last 2 or 3 minutes of this discussion are missing because my camera battery ran out. Nothing of substance from the meeting was lost from the missing portion of the video.

Some early reactions from readers:
  • Fabulous. Kudos to RIOC.
  • I love it
  • Good News!!
  • Yea!!!! and
  •  Wow I'm impressed. Bring on the Goodies!
though others are concerned that the monthly fee imposed in addition to the NYC license fee will inhibit food trucks from coming to Roosevelt Island when they have the choice to serve other neighborhoods that don't impose any separate fees.

UPDATE 4:15 PM - Advised by Luke's Lobster truck vendor that they would like to come back to Roosevelt Island even with the permit fee and are just waiting for the permits to become available from RIOC. Roosevelt Island resident Mark Lyon contacted several food truck vendors and adds:
Thus far, I've received expressions of interest from:

@LukesLobsterNY - - - -

I've passed along contact info for the permit office to all of them. For anyone else interested, the permit office can be reached at (212) 832-4557 or by visiting


Mark Lyon said...

I am aware that at least one food truck called today to ask about getting a permit and was told that the process is not yet in place, but that RIOC will update them when they can apply.  This strikes me as odd, since RIOC granted a permit on 3/13 to the Mr. Softee truck.

Cari Ellen O'Connor Bak said...

does this mean they have to pay the 200 to NYC and then 345 to RIOC? that seems very excessive... if NYC is 200, and doesn't include RI, then I can see charging 200 here as well, but I don't support an "in addition to" kind of fee...

YetAnotherRIer said...

* I am not surprised that the Bar & Grill/Nonno's guy suggested to keep vendors in one spot instead of spread around the island. I am very sure he also wants to get first dibs in being one of the vendors for that sell at that location.

* No alcohol can be served in the vicinity of churches?

* Food court at the pier? That's going to be quite small and cramped but definitely a good idea for a single vendor to rent that space.

* That guy saying that it concerns him that food truck vendors don't user gloves, is he for real? I don't need him to protect me. There's that department that loves handing out grades to food vendors. That's plenty. No need to add another layer.

* What the hell was this attempt to justify that the Mr Softee knock-off was allowed to operate w/o permit? The weather was nice and so she decided to go over to RI...? 

* "How many of those fools want to come over here and think they can make money of us?" Did anybody else catch that?
* 47 minutes talk about real estate etc. etc. and 3 minutes about the fee. How is RIOC going to manage the expectations of vendors to have a spot guaranteed after paying a monthly fee of $345? Are the vendors going to fight over spots by either coming in earlier and ealier or even never leave a spot? It seems most attendees were against this number but nobody was assertive enough to keep the discussion on point.

YetAnotherRIer said...

Yup. Agreed. If the vendors have to shell out that kind of money they will not be interested. The idea behind food tracks is spontaneity but if you have to pay that much you have to be more rigid and plan a lot more. Also, RIOC's comment that NYC's fee is so small because NYC has a lot more revenue doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Street food vending does not add up to a lot more expenses for the RIOC. This is simply just a money grab.

StuartChenkin said...

"No alcohol can be served in the vicinity of churches?"Does that include the Trellis?  

Mark Lyon said...

Correct.  RIOC wants a monthly fee in addition to the other fees necessary to operate with an All City permit.  They claim the ability to require this permit fee based on §6397 of the RIOC law.  Their interpretation is that the law grants the ability to do more than designate speed limits, parking spaces and related matters but that they can also require RIOC permission to use the public streets in a manner consistent with NYC law.  I believe that interpretation is far too broad.  

If, in fact, RIOC's interpretation is what was intended by the legislature, then one could argue that they should further expand their control over the roads in order to create additional revenue for the corporation.  They should, for instance, impose a $10 fee for all FreshDirect, FedEx, UPS and other deliveries. They should collect fees from moving trucks to cover the wear and tear on the roads.  Perhaps they could require cabs to make a full loop of the island, and if they don't pick up a passenger, pay $1 to leave.  We'd certainly be safer if they issued special driving permits on the island (for non-city workers & visitors) that required drivers to pay a fee and demonstrate knowledge of stopping at crosswalks.  Of course, if their interpretation is correct, then drivers who have paid any fines greater than $50 for first offense and $150 for second offense within 18 months should be given a refund.  The NYC fines should not have applied; instead only those provided for in the RIOC law should have been given.

Mark Lyon said...

Thus far, I've received expressions of interest from:

@LukesLobsterNY - - - - 

I've passed along contact info for the permit office to all of them.  For anyone else interested, the permit office can be reached at (212) 832-4557 or by visiting

Ratso123 said...

RIOC requires a monthly fee of $345 to operate, or you are out of business.  It reminds me of the collectors on 116th Street that were paid as an insurance policy for protection by the store owners.  If you didn't pay for this protection you would need protection from them.  This is just another form of corruption, hopefully without the violence. My surprise only extends to the fact that it is done so brazenly out in the open.  Never an outcry from Lappin , Kehlner or Maloney unless they want your vote.  I would like to know how this can be justified ethically, and how our elected officials can justify permitting this rip-off.

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YetAnotherRIer said...

I kind of like the owner of Nono's and the bar. He is involved in the community and he is doing a lot of good to RI. But he is a bit full of himself as well, no? Does he have any business experience prior Nono's? When he mentioned in that video above how he knows business based on running his two restaurants on RI he kind of misses the fact that he is catering to a captive audience. Once there is actual real competition and his establishments will stay in  business for more than another five years, yes, he can be proud and give input in how to run a successful eatery. Until then, pray and improve. Nono's and the Bar & Grill are far from good restaurants and will be flattened in no time based on the food and service you are getting there. 

theohiostate said...

People seem to have an issue with RIOC's fee.  I don't.  Roosevelt Island is run and operated by New York State, not New York City.  They can charge whatever fees they want and whatever rents they want.  That's why they put that corporation in place.  Again, to run and operate the the island.

The fee of $345 per month comes out to about $11 bucks a day. If they can't make more than $11 bucks a day here, then they shouldn't be in the Food Truck business.

theohiostate said...

People seem to have an issue with RIOC charging a fee.  I don't.  Let's remember that Roosevelt Island is run and operated by New York State, not New York City.  By their agreement, they have the authority to charge whatever they want.  That's why that corporation was put in place - to run and operate the island - the best way they see fit.

The fee of $345 per month comes out to about $11 bucks a day. If they can't make more than $11 bucks a day here, then they shouldn't be in the Food Truck business.

mogensjp said...

I agree with Ratso 123 BUT I think that all the privileged free parking spots on Main Street and elsewhere (including teachers) should also pay something and then brandish their monthly tickets.

Mark Lyon said...

Unfortunately, the same truck won't (and shouldn't) visit RI every day.  Part of the fun thing about food trucks is that you never know what might appear today.  

Because of this, RI selling a special permit (even if it is permitted by RIOC's legislation granting it ability to control parking) at a high price will discourage trucks from signing up. It also opens RIOC up to litigation related to the food trucks.

A better method, I think, is to allow vending from metered parking, but institute a special food truck parking rate. It would be far more reasonable to charge $5-10/hr for parking by licensed, operating food trucks and avoid these issues all together.

YetAnotherRIer said...

I think we all acknowledge that the RIOC can charge whatever they want. What I am concerned about is is that the fee is way too high but only time will tell, of course. Once a vendor gets the permit does he/she get a spot assigned? Will there be only as many permits as there are vending locations? If the fee is small enough vendors would just get a permit and see what happens. At this price, though, there will be less experimenting and probably more demands at who is going to get what location. Kind of the anti-thesis of what a food truck is all about.

I stand by my opinion, though, that the RIOC cannot justify this kind of money other than a cash cow. I think we can see this easily in the video above.

theohiostate said...

I can see your point and that of Mark Lyon.  Maybe the fee should be less to attract different trucks.  Maybe it can be a one time fee for the year - this way, they can come when they want, and not have to be here everyday in order to justify the high monthly fee.

YetAnotherRIer said...

Agreed. It does seem some trucks are interested to come here despite the fee. Time will tell.