New York City Rule Proposal to Require GPS to Track Food Vendors

Nicko Karagiorgos spoke to TNH about the proposal requiring GPS for food vendors. From a family of food vendors, he and his brother Franky own Uncle Gussy's food trucks in Manhattan and a restaurant in Long Island City, serving traditional Greek food. Photo: Tiffany Loria @NYCFoodPhoto

NEW YORK – A recent rule change proposal by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City would require food vendors to have “a location sharing device,” such as GPS, allowing the city to track their movements in order to make health inspections for grading the food vendors easier. The proposal has many, including local Greek food vendors, questioning the necessity when so many are already posting their location on various social media outlets and on their websites to attract customers anyway.

The Grading of Mobile Food Vending Units (Amendments to the Chapter 6 of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York) rule change proposal states: “Unlike restaurants, which exist at a fixed location, mobile units move and are not required to operate on a set schedule. If the Department cannot locate all of the mobile units that require grades, the grading program will fail; not every unit will be graded and the grades that are posted may not be current. The successful implementation of the mobile food vending grading program, and the ability to mirror restaurant grading as closely as possible, requires adhering to the prescribed inspection schedule and ensuring that accurate and current grades are posted and timely on all units. That necessitates the Department being able to find and inspect units across the City. To accomplish this and to check for compliance with grade posting requirements, the Department requires each vending unit to be equipped with a location sharing device that will enable the Department to pinpoint the unit’s location when it is to be inspected.”

Nicko Karagiorgos, who along with his brother Franky owns Uncle Gussy’s food trucks, located at 345 Park Avenue in Midtown and on Wall Street in Manhattan, serving traditional Greek food, spoke with The National Herald about the proposal. He said, “If you want to find a food truck, there are many ways, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Food moves app, Moving food, the list can go on and on. This is all free technology.”

Uncle Gussy’s food truck at 345 Park Avenue serves traditional Greek food. Photo: Tiffany Loria @NYCFoodPhoto

Karagiorgos continued, “I believe that it is a waste of tax dollars, the money can go elsewhere for example, to fix our schools and broken infrastructure.The focus should be to allow small business to capitalize in a free and open capitalist market. It is the backbone of America. De Blasio is one of the worst mayors ever since I have been around. He makes Dinkins look like a God.”

“I post everyday, twice a day, on at least 3 social media platforms and our website,” Karagiorgos told TNH.

Concerns about the rule proposal have also been raised by others including Human Rights Watch in a recent articleon its website which noted that the rule change may violate the right to privacy of food vendors and pointed out that “the city’s proposal does not clarify how the location data the devices generate will be protected or how long it will be retained, raising concerns about how it may be misused or worse, hacked.”

“Undocumented immigrants who work as vendors are particularly fearful,” Human Rights Watch reported, adding that “United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is investing in expanding its surveillance capabilities to find and deport more people by purchasing cell phone data analysis systems to track real-time location, by using Facebook data and potentially pinning down travel patterns from license plate scanners.”

“Street vendors already face harassment and excessive ticketing by the NYPD and these location trackers will only increase the risks they face to make good food,”said Fahd Ahmed, the executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, an organization of working-class South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrants, Human Rights Watch reported.

More information about the New York City rule proposal is available online: rules.cityofnewyork.us, search Grading of Mobile Food Vending Units (Amendments to the Chapter 6 of Title 24 of the RCNY).

More information about Uncle Gussy’s is available online: unclegussys.com.

Uncle Gussy’s food truck in Manhattan. Photo: Tiffany Loria @NYCFoodPhoto