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Oyster Bay may confiscate food trucks and equipment over code violations

A food truck on South Broadway, between East

A food truck on South Broadway, between East Cherry and East Carl streets in Hicksville, advertised its halal food offerings Wednesday. The Oyster Bay town board adopted a local law that would allow it to temporarily seize trucks and equipment if operators violate town code. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Oyster Bay could begin confiscating food trucks under a new local law to crack down on operators who sell food from vehicles.

The ordinance, which the town board adopted on May 4, will allow the town to temporarily seize the trucks and equipment if operators violate regulations and — subject to approval by a judge — sell them and deposit proceeds into the town’s coffers. The law will take effect once stamped by the New York Secretary of State.

Among violations that could result in the seizure of mobile food vehicles under the new rules include operating without a town license; not displaying the license on the vehicle; parking in a "public place" or street for more than 10 minutes without customers; operating for more than 30 minutes in a "public place" or street; or operating in one place for more than 30 minutes during a 24-hour period. The town could begin forfeiture proceedings if the food truck owner is found guilty.

The town’s outside legal counsel, Andrew Preston of Mineola-based Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan LLP., told the town board at a May 4 hearing that Oyster Bay needed additional powers to enforce its code against unlicensed vendors.

"The current local law allows for penalties to be issued but that has not proven to be effective enough in stopping mobile food vendors, which … choose not to request and receive permits form the town clerk," Preston told the board.

Councilman Louis Imbroto said fines aren't enough to stop violators.

"For a lot of them it's just the cost of doing business to pay their fines to the town to continue operating," Imbroto said at the hearing.

No members of the food industry spoke at the hearing. Following the law's adoption, Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said there had been an "urgency" to pass it to protect "quality of life."

Nassau County human rights commission chair Bobby Kalotee said allowing the government to seize food trucks without giving owners an opportunity to cure violations is too extreme.

"If it’s a violation, people should have a second chance," Kalotee said. "When there’s a building violation, people don’t come and seize the property and sell it. When there’s a traffic violation they don’t seize your car and sell it. Why should this be any different?"

Last year the town sought to confiscate the halal food truck of Barakah 786 Corp. in Hicksville after winning a 2018 lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the company and owner after the town issued several summons against it for code violations, including parking in one spot for more than 10 minutes. The judge did not allow the town to seize the truck, ruling that fines had been appropriate.

Ralph Imbriano, who operates his Ralphie’s Crossroads Café food truck in a Plainview parking lot during weekday business hours, said he was not concerned about the new law because he serves food in an area where he has no brick-and-mortar competitors.

"Usually they don’t enforce that or go after anybody unless the vendor … is inhibiting another business," Imbriano said.

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