The Ice Cream Truck Across the Street Is Making Way Too Much Noise

Q: We live in a co-op building opposite a small park on East 77th Street. An ice cream truck parks at the entrance to the park, right near our apartment, for 12 hours a day, with a diesel generator running the entire time. We cannot open our windows or sit on our balcony because of the noise and air pollution. Is there anything that can be done? Many of our neighbors complain about it. We’ve contacted 311, our City Council member, the police and the ice cream truck owner. Our efforts have accomplished nothing. What can be done?

A: Ice cream trucks are a ubiquitous part of summer in New York, and a staple at city parks. So if you live right by a park, the trucks, with their incessant jingles and rattling generators, come with the territory. However, the truck operators, like other food vendors, must be licensed and permitted, and comply with city rules and regulations.

The list of rules is long. Food trucks cannot idle with the engine running. They cannot park too close to a driveway, a loading zone, a subway entrance, a bus stop or a taxi stand. And they must use generators, operated and vented according to the manufacturers’ guidelines, to keep the food cold. The generators also must be registered with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and comply with its noise and air codes.

You could call 311 again and ask for a DEP inspector to come and confirm that the generator is operating properly. You could also call your local community board (in your case that’s Manhattan Community Board 8) and ask them to follow up on your behalf.

But the vendor is also a business owner in your community, so rather than report him again, try having another conversation with him. Street vendors “don’t want to cause problems because they’re out there on the street everyday,” said Matthew Shapiro, the legal director of Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. “The street is their business place.”

The fumes and noise are a health hazard for the worker more than anyone else. A decade ago, the city plugged a few food carts into the grid, but the initiative fizzled out. Now, the Street Vendor Project is working on a pilot program to power a few food carts with batteries to test the cleaner and quieter technology. If it’s successful (and gets funding), the technology could potentially work for larger food and ice cream trucks, too.

“Why can’t we have food carts that are run on batteries?” Mr. Shapiro said. “That would be better for the vendors. That would be better for the city. That would be better for everyone.”

If we can drive a car with an electric battery, why not an ice cream truck?

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