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Business Group Calls For Crackdown On 34th Street Food Carts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The number of food carts along 34th Street, particularly during the holiday shopping season, has gotten out of hand, a Midtown business group charges.

The 34th Street Partnership wants a ban on food carts along 34th, including on Sundays, when vending rules now don't apply, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

"It's wall-to-wall carts," Pisark described of the Sundays just before Christmas.

Business Group Calls For Crackdown On 34th Street Food Carts

Businesses complain about smoke and litter produced by the carts, and over the past three years, a few hundred people have complained to 311 that they've gotten sick from the food.

"It's about city inspections, which are not as frequent as brick-and-mortar restaurants," Pisark said.

The carts don't get letter grades like restaurants, but they do get evaluated.

"The health department comes in every couple of weeks and investigates everything," Magdy Abdelgowad told CBS2's Elise Finch, "We clean it every single day. At night it gets cleaned from everything. The food is every day fresh."

Matthew Shapiro is an attorney with the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit advocacy group. He said that food cart vendors are regulated and inspected and have their own burden as small businesses.

"The business associations have historically tried to remove a certain type of vendor from the street and put what they think is an appropriate vendor on the sidewalk. Just because you represent a group of business owners doesn't mean you get to control the way the sidewalk looks," he said.

In Crain's New York Business, Sean Basinski with the Street Vendor Project, accused the 34th Street Partnership's president of being racist. The vendors are largely minorities and immigrants.

"We believe Dan Biederman hates vendors and is a racist against [them]," Basinski said.

"Racism doesn't have anything to do with it," Pisark told Silverman. "It's about quality of life."

Peter, who has been selling hot dogs in front of Macy's for a few years, said he would prefer to keep his cart where it is, "but what am I going to do? The law is the law."

New Yorkers appeared split over what should happen next.

"All of my favorite restaurants are graded so they're no different especially because in New York a lot of people go to the trucks to eat. They should be graded the same way," Richard Green said.

"I think food carts are just fine. I've eaten from food carts many times. It's a quick and convenient way to eat," Joan Walton added.

The food fight is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks since more vendors hit this area during the holiday shopping season.

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