May 26, 2014 By Christian Murray
A food vendor selling Chinese/Indian meals set up shop under the 46th Street train station Saturday, the first food vendor to so since December.
The operator, a Tibetan immigrant, said that he planned to work at the 46th Street location on weekends. He said he works in the Union Square district on weekdays.
The operator, who started working in Sunnyside for the first time this weekend, said he was unaware of any issues in Sunnyside with food vendors working by the train stations. He said he lived on 47th Street and 50th Avenue and did not know that Community Board 2 was opposed to vendors being there .
The vendor, who didn’t want to be named, was selling dumplings, chicken curry, fried rice, chicken biryani, chicken chow mein and lamb & rice.
The community board has held the opinion that food vendors have an unfair advantage over nearby eateries. Restaurants, the board argues, are subject to vigorous inspections from the health department, yet food vendors are not. Furthermore, they don’t pay rent.
However, of more significance, the vendors have been kicked out since December due to public safety concerns.
If the 7 train had to be evacuated, the board argues, there would be a lot of people crammed into the space below the station as they tried to exit.
“They would have to navigate through the vendors…and at one point there were 4 or 5 vendors there,” said Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, in December. “This is an issue of public safety.”
Many residents, however, want the vendors back. At a recent discussion about the introduction of public plazas at the 40th and 46th Street stations many called for a small space dedicated to vendors.
Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee will be discuss the plaza program on May 27.