Changing Food Truck Permitting Process Could Raise Millions

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If New York City used a bidding system to issue food truck permits — much like it does for taxi medallions or park concessions — the city could add $37 million to its coffers.

A report by the Independent Budget Office (IBO) found the parks department brought in $4.6 million dollars in 2011 for just over 320 concessions because it asks venders wanting to sell on city land to submit sealed bids for the right to do so. In contrast, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which issues food truck permits for a flat fee, issued ten times as many permits for just $266,000.

“There's clearly money on table that could be brought in,” said Doug Turetsky, the IBO's communications director and chief of staff.

The increased revenues would be a “tiny amount of a $68 billion dollar [city] budget,” said Turetsky, though it would “nearly pay for the 20 fire companies the mayor has proposed closing for next year.”

However, increased revenues aren’t the only factor in determining how permits should be issued.

“The downside might be if you start charging a whole lot more for these permits, you'd start squeezing out the mom-and-pop operators, the immigrant entrepreneur who really fueled a lot of interest and excitement around food trucks,” said Turetsky.

Recent reporting by WNYC found that new food truck businesses regularly pay up to $20,000 dollars on the black market for permits that cost $200 when issued straight from the Health Department.