NYC food carts might soon get letter grades like restaurants

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It's a staple on just about every corner in New York City, food carts.

"We eat here every day, 5 days a week," said Charles Whitmore, a food cart customer.

The cost for a meal is cheaper than most restaurants, lending to their popularity.

Sean Basinski with the Street Vendor Project, which is part of the Urban Justice Center, tells Eyewitness News the perception of food carts is changing.

"There's an old fashioned notion that people had about street food being dirty, shady, they don't know who's making it, what is this food, really we've seen that that's changing," Basinski said.

It doesn't mean that all are safe though.

"It's kind of tricky," Whitmore said.

Eyewitness News has uncovered street carts in the past that have had pigeons plopping right on top of the food.

Food carts are inspected by the Health Department, but soon you may be able to see how well they fair, with a letter grade posted right on the cart, just like at a regular restaurant.

State Senator Jose Peralta is one of the lawmakers pushing a new bill that would require food carts be graded.

"We want to make sure that one, that the customers are safe and they're eating healthy quality food. Two, also give the customer the option to see something visible, something tangible sort have their own immediate review system," State Sen. Peralta said.

Many of the vendors are on board with the idea.

"I think it's the right way to do it because you know people they like it when it's 'A' in the window they feel safe," said Dora Golminopoulos, Mama's Food Cart, for 16 years.

Not only will the letter grades make sure the food you get from the carts won't make you sick, but the senator also says it will weed out black market street cart vendors.

"That's a huge problem, the black marketed permits," Basinski said.

That's where permitted vendors sell their permits to those who are on the long waiting list with the city for thousands more than the cost.

Either way, Peralta sees the bill as a win-win for vendors and customers.

If it passes, you may soon see a letter on your favorite cart in the next two months.
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