A new rule proposed by the Health Department would outfit every mobile food vendor with a GPS tracking device, as part of a bill that will force mobile food vendors to post letter grades. And according to the Street Vendor Project—an advocacy group for the mostly immigrant street vendors in New York—street vendors are in near-unanimous opposition to the bill.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene argues that it can only find 80% of food carts, and that locating devices are crucial for tracking where these carts operate. "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 rule states.
“It feels more like Big Brother,” Adam Disilvestro, owner of Diso’s Food Truck on Sixth Avenue and 48th Street, told the NY Post. “So now I have to have a GPS tracker because they can’t do their job?"
At a time when ICE is showing up in courtrooms, schools, and green card hearings—detaining grandparents at Army bases and pizza delivery workers alike—food vendors are understandably extremely concerned about how this location data will be used, and with whom it will be shared.
The Department of Health told the Post that it would not share location information unless it was legally required to do so. But the federal government could still compel the city to disclose this location data, Sean Basinski, co-director of the Street Vendors Project, told Gothamist. "Grading is great, but GPS is a real problem in today's day and age," he said.
Basinski said that currently, street vendors are inspected at a higher rate than restaurants, with some even subject to inspection once a month, according to Basinksi. The Street Vendors Project is pushing for a less intrusive way to track street carts, like vendors providing a phone number to the Health Department.
The Street Vendors Project says it will consider suing the city if this proposal passes, contending that this might be an unconstitutional breach of the fourth amendment rights of street vendors, a form of warrantless surveillance, according to Matthew Shapiro, their legal director.
“This is really on de Blasio,” said Basinski. “Every time I hear him on the freaking radio he talks about how it's a sanctuary city. And if you’re going to be a sanctuary city, you cannot be tracking our immigrant street vendors.”
The Department of Health plans to issue the final rules on this matter in a month.