Friday, March 25, 2016

In motion

Returning home this morning after visiting the office ... walking along 48th Street was a pushcart vendor heading to the times have changed...checking his phone with his ear buds in.
So I looked up some of the history of pushcart vendors...

Here you go...
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 1970′s and 80′s, 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.

The first law regulating food carts was known as the Thirty Minute Law, wherein a pushcart had to re-locate every thirty minutes. That was a difficult law to enforce (especially in the overcrowded poorer neighborhood of the Lower East Side) and the law was probably disobeyed more than it was obeyed. In fact, the very first pushcart market was established on Hester Street in 1886 when four Jewish peddlers decided to stay put for much longer than 30 minutes. These markets grew in popularity across lower Manhattan. While many organizations made attempts, there was little regulation at these markets and corruption, uncleanliness, and chaos ran rampant.

Despite what Crain’s hints at, food vendors are not going anywhere in this city. They’re culturally, economically, and culinarily important. But while the type of food sold on the street continues to evolve, the battle between lawmakers and vendors remains eerily familiar.

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