Arrival of ‘Rent a Vets’ Sparks New Vendor Battles in Front of the Met

Speaking of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as we were in that last post, but departing in this having absolutely nothing to do with fashion, an ongoing, vicious battle continues to rage just outside the museum’s front steps. You might recall that said war rose to more recent public prominence two years back, when the Met started asking the city to remove hot dog vendors and/or given them $1000 tickets for not being in their sanctioned spaces. At the time, the museum argued that the food carts were blocking visitors from entering, though most everyone (including us) translated that into the museum wanting less traffic for the vendors and more traffic buying food in their cafes. Those various pushes made way for Cake & Shake, a multi-cart operation run by chefs Gina Ojile and Derek Hunt, to slide in last summer, paying somewhere in the $100,000+ range per year for the prime real estate. Somehow, despite all that turmoil over the past couple of years, things seemed relatively calm…until recently. The NY Times has filed this great report on the moving in of carts run by military veterans, three new ones at the time of the story’s publication. The rub is that, due to a NY law, veterans don’t have to pay the city’s high fees to act as street vendors. This seemed to work fine for one of long-serving carts, but now others have swept in, with dubious uses of the vets, one of whom the paper observed taking a nap while someone else manned the cart. Dubbed “rent-a-vet” by the other, established vendors, it’s supposed that cart owners are hiring veterans to simply sit alongside the stands, thus technically fulfilling the legal requirement, saving the owners a bundle in fees, and being able to move in on choice plots of land. It’s a great story and we’re sure, like before, that this will all get mildly ugly for a while, all the while providing even more great reading.