Food carts that get plum spots near city parks and museums because they’re supposed to be run by veterans are actually manned by non-heroes who “rent” the veterans in a scheme to skirt city laws — and lend an air of legitimacy to their businesses, the Post has learned.
Under city law, only disabled veterans are granted special permits to sell grub on high-traffic sidewalks around tourist hot spots such as Museum Mile and Columbus Circle, as a boon for their national service.
The vets are supposed to actually work the carts — but in some cases, they actually manned by schemers who pay the vets to hang out nearby, in case city inspectors start asking questions, one vet admitted.
“The reason why I’m here is if the park police come, or the Health Department comes, I’m the veteran that’s here,” said Alan Kemp, a 63-year-old Vietnam who was granted a special permit because he suffers from PTSD — and who said that a non-vet runs his Columbus Circle hot dog cart and gives him cash to relax nearby.
A Post reporter observed him sitting for hours on a park bench with a special laminated license hanging around his neck while a man with no military background cooked and served hot dogs from his cart — which bore a sign reading “DISABLED VET.”
Asked if he ever actually works at the restaurant on wheels, Kemp said, “No, the cook [does].”
Unlike other mobile vending licenses, there’s no cap on the number of the free “specialized” permits the city will give out — allowing the vets to skirt a competitive licensing process, and granting them access to the lucrative tourist area.
The man running Kemp’s cart declined to comment, saying, “Don’t worry about my job.”
‘It’s like organized crime — it’s a mob mentality.’
Lambert, 74, who said he suffered from lung cancer, claimed he was “taking a break” and mistakenly claimed the rule didn’t call for him to be at the cart.
In total, there were roughly 10 carts in the area, selling everything from grilled cheeses to falafel and gyros.
One vendor snapped “F—k off” when asked if a disable vet was on site, and others claimed not to speak English. Another angrily shoved a Post reporter and shouted homophobic slurs at him.
“It’s like organized crime — it’s a mob mentality,” said neighbor Gregory Ehrlich. “They’re taking advantage of vets.”
A spokesman for the city’s Department of Health, which regulates the food carts, said the agency has received complaints about the rent-a-vet scheme, but didn’t know how many.
Vendors who break the rules can be can be hit with a summons or a fine of$200-$,1000 or lose their permits, according to the spokesman.
Food cart permits cost $200, but often take years to receive.
Citywide, the number of non-specialized permits issued by the city is capped at 2,900.
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