City To Yank Permits Of Feuding Food Trucks
by Melissa Bailey | Apr 23, 2010 8:04 am
Posted to: Food, Immigrants
After his brother pulled out a gun amid a turf war on Long Wharf, Jose Ortiz, Jr. is preparing to see his family food cart put to rest.
Ortiz (at right in photo with his son, Jose Ortiz III) runs Lechonera La Unica food cart on Long Wharf. He was one of three men arrested Sunday after a dispute over territory. Carlos Espada-Maldonado, owner of La Pinchera food cart, threatened Ortiz with a knife; Jose’s brother Carlos answered by pulling out a gun, according to police. No one was injured in the fight, but a city official said both businesses will be hurt by the fallout.
City building chief Andy Rizzo said he plans to send out letters Friday revoking the vending licenses of both food carts. Both sell Puerto Rican food on a busy strip of taco trucks by the New Haven Harbor’s shore. Rizzo said police asked him to yank the permits after Sunday’s dispute.
“This is pretty serious,” said Rizzo. “You can’t be out there pulling knives and guns on people.”
Selling food on Long Wharf is a privilege allowed through the city permit process, not a right, he said. Rizzo said he intends to send the revocation letters out Friday via a state marshal. Until then, the carts are permitted to keep operating.
On Thursday, the Ortiz family took the opportunity to spend the sunny afternoon serving up specialties of their native Puerto Rico, roasted pork and rotisserie chicken. The menu showed bright palm trees, and a mirror below it reflected the glittering water of the harbor. Jose Ortiz stepped out of the truck in a white apron and hair net. In a calm, resigned voice, he recounted how he came to be on the brink of losing his family business.
Ortiz, who’s 37, runs the food cart with his father and his son, all three of the same name. They all live together on Fair Haven’s East Pearl Street, in a two-family house they converted into “one big, one-family home.” He formed the business three years ago. He first set up in Criscuolo Park, near home plate of the Puerto Rican softball league. When the league played, they did good business, he said. At the time, selling food was a side gig.
This year, after Ortiz lost his other job, he decided to expand the business and sell food full time. In February, he was granted a city permit to move his truck to Long Wharf. He was assigned to Lot 8, a few car lengths away from the park’s iconic flag truck. Ortiz first opened shop there about two months ago, he said. He sold food from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The new location proved to be much better money—especially on Sundays, when an out-of-town crowd swings by the strip of Latino food carts after hitting the flea market on the Ella Grasso Boulevard.
But from the beginning, there was trouble.
Until Ortiz opened shop, Carlos Espada-Maldonado ran the only Puerto Rican cart along the busy row. His cart, La Pinchera, is Spanish for shish kebab. He sold them for several years, next to the Mexican taco trucks.
Espada-Maldonado didn’t take kindly to his new neighbors. He wanted to be the only Puerto Rican food-seller on the strip, according to Ortiz.
Despite what Ortiz’s permit said, Carlos Espada-Maldonado claimed Lot 8 as his turf. Ortiz said he didn’t mind: He offered to switch lots with Espada-Maldonado, who was assigned to Lot 7. But Espada-Maldonado insisted on planting his truck between the two, he said. So they parked next to each other, even though city permits had placed them 50 feet apart.
Ortiz said Espada-Maldonado tried to bring him down by calling the health department on his neighbors. Ortiz said he passed a health inspection and moved on with life.
The dispute kept escalating.
Last Friday, it hit a breaking point when an employee at La Pinchera pulled out a knife on his neighboring food truck workers, according to Ortiz.
On Sunday, Ortiz showed up to Long Wharf and found Espada-Maldonado “waiting for me.”
Espada-Maldonado approached Ortiz and pulled out a kitchen knife, according to a police report. Ortiz’s older brother Carlos saw the knife. He walked over and pulled out a silver .38 caliber handgun from his waistband.
Jose Ortiz said his brother didn’t point the gun at anyone: He just showed it, and the fight was over. No one was hurt.
Soon after, the cops swept in and arrested all three men. Carlos Ortiz had a permit for this gun, but police took it away after he wielded it against his neighbor. Jose Ortiz was charged with second-degree breach of peace and was released after posting a $2,500 bond.
Police charged his brother with breach of peace and threatening in the second degree and first-degree reckless endangerment. Carlos Espada-Maldonado was issued the first two of those three misdemeanor charges. They were released after posting $10,000 and $5,000 bonds respectively.
The three men are due to be arraigned in Superior Court on Tuesday and Thursday.
On sunny Thursday just after noon, a few patrons lined up at Lechonera La Unica, where a Puerto Rican flag flew in the shoreline breeze. La Pinchera was nowhere to be seen. Ortiz said his neighbor hasn’t been back since Sunday’s incident. Espada-Maldonado couldn’t be reached for comment for this story.
Jose Ortiz said he regrets his brother’s hotheaded action and the likely demise of his family business. Before Sunday, he had been planning to open a second food truck, which his father would run at Criscuolo Park in time for softball season.
Building chief Rizzo said after police alerted him to Sunday’s incident, he had three options for discipline: “I could suspend, revoke or take away their privileges at Long Wharf.” He said Sgt. Richard Miller, the district manager for Hill South, recommended revocation.
Once a vending license is revoked, the food truck can’t sell anywhere in the city, Rizzo said. Vendors do have the right to appeal. They can also reapply for a permit later down the road, but police conduct a background check as part of the application process, so chances of approval would be unlikely, Rizzo said.
Ortiz said he’s not sure what the future holds.
“We’ll probably lose the permit to be here,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.
“We’re trying to make a living. Hopefully we both get one more chance.”
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Why was Sgt. Miller pushing for revocation? Suspension seems to be a fair punishment along with a caveat that both trucks remain 50 feet apart at all times.
Pulling out a knife on somebody and threatening them - that’s serious business. You cannot do that, I think that Espada-Maldonado should a. be arrested and put away, and b. definitely have his permit taken away. Ortiz did the right thing. He didn’t want to be chopped up with a butcher knife (naturally, none of us usually do). Therefore, he calmly showed his gun. That is really the right thing to do, people have the right to defend themselves AND he has a permit.
Ortiz should stay and should be aloud to continue selling.
Hahahaha. All they had to do was not draw weapons on each other - ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS NOT DRAW WEAPONS - and that was too much to ask.
The permits should not be revoked it is difficult these days to have a job and then have someone pull a permit to sell food and make an honest living is going a bit too far. Sure pulling or showing a gun or a knife is bad judgement and it should be treated as such. Do not take a families ability to make a living, do so and then we really have problems, more crime because families will not be able to support themselves. Give them both 2 week suspensions and pull the pistol permit.
Jose is my neighbor and a great one at that. He is raising his three (3) boys to be exceptional young men as evident of the picture with Jose, Jr. I am shocked to see that he was even involved in something like this. If this story is accurately reported (and without knowing the other party involved) I have to believe that Jose and his brother were just preparing to defend themselves. I hope this works out in their favor. I am confident that Mr. Rizzo will do a thorough investigation of the facts leading up to this incident before making a decision that could ultimately destroy two (2)families piece of the American Dream.
Couldn’t they give them whatever criminal penalty is in order, a thirty-day suspension of the permit and a warning that if anything else happens, then they lose the permit forever? Hate to see someone put out of business for something stupid like this.
Before all of you continue taking sides, it’s important to note that there is only one side represented in this story, Ortiz’s version. Ortiz portrays himself the innocent victim, who did EVERYTHING right and with impeccable character and simply had the misfortune of a hot headed gun wielding brother. Additionally, Ortiz portrays Espada-Maldonado as being the evil villain intent on ruining Ortiz’s business.
I do not know either of these men and have never purchased food from either of them. What I do know, however, is that there are at least two sides to every story and most people in combative situations tend to view/portray themselves as being in the right, whilst viewing/portraying the other party as being in the wrong. Maybe everything Ortiz claims is accurate, but we have no way of knowledgeably judging the scenario because this article is completely one sided.
In my view this is terrible reporting. I understand that you cannot report Espada-Maldonado’s side if you cannot reach him, BUT why did you not contact Sgt. Richard Miller to get an objective account of the scenario? The only thing Rizzo tells us is that he made the decision based on Sgt. Miller’s recommendation. Why did Sgt. Miller recommend vending license revocation for BOTH businesses? THREE men were arrested and charged! THREE. Based on Ortiz’s account, as reported, there is absolutely no reason that he would have been arrested and charged.
“Police charged his brother (Jose Ortiz) with breach of peace and threatening in the second degree and first-degree reckless endangerment.”
Why would Jose be arrested for and charged with the above if his telling of the story is accurate?
I have taken the time to write out my thoughts because this article is influencing public opinion favorably towards Ortiz and negatively towards Espada-Maldonado, even though I am sure Ms Balley intended objectivity. New Haven is a relatively small town the reputations and livelihoods of two men/families are on the line. The NHI bears a responsibility to steward well its influence over public opinion. This article fails to do that.
[Editor’s Note: Thanks for the feedback. We checked with Sgt. Miller. He said that each side claimed that the other side pulled a weapon first. He said the police had no way to know who was right, so they arrested both sides.]
What upsets me about the situation is greed. Everyone can make money on Long Wharf. It is time for people to grow up. Yes tempers do flare but you have to remember to be the bigger person. I don’t feel that their licenses should be revoked. I think they should receive a fine and some type of probabtion. Times are hard and people have to survive with what they have. To me, this article shows who the bigger person was because they were out there making money a few days later. Best of luck to both vendors and I hope they don’t lose their license.
Maybe a letter writing/email campaign to Mr. Rizzo would help persuade him to be lenient and give both parties only a 30 day suspension and an order to remain, at least, 50 feet away from each other.
Jose lives on my street and not taking sides he is a good person and has three great sons. Sad to hear of both of these men having a problem selling food and they should be given another chance to be out there and shake hands and for the brother with a gun and the other with a weapon was a poor choice on both their parts.
With the crime wave in New Haven right now, I’d rather not have people who threaten each other with knives and guns getting off easy. I don’t want anyone to lose their jobs, but come on—let’s promote peaceful conflict resolution and NOT tolerance for violent behavior. If New Haven is serious about cutting down on crime, they have to take action. It sucks for them and their families if they’re shut down, but that’s what you get for pulling knives and guns.
Give the men a break. Don’t pull their permitt, they need it to make a living. At least they are not selling drugs. This is there first offense. Give them a second chance. I say pull the gun permitt and make them apologize and shake hands. They are trying to feed there familes and it is hard out here.
Isn’t this the sort of situation that mediation was invented for? Get the two families around a table, point out the larger stakes (loss of income for both), get them talking, get a written undertaking of non-violence from here on out.
And then have friendly cops swing past to sample the wares every other night, just to keep an eye on things.
Well, thanks for checking with Sgt. Miller, but your comment confuse the situation even more.
“He said that each side claimed that the other side pulled a weapon first. He said the police had no way to know who was right, so they arrested both sides.”
So Jose “pulled a weapon,” as well? According to your article:
Carlos Ortiz was arrest and charged with “second-degree breach of peace.”
*ONE Charge and a $2,500 bond. (He pulled the gun)
Carlos Espada-Maldonado was arrested and charged with “reach of peace and threatening in the second degree”
*TWO charges and a $5,000 bond (He pulled the knife)
Jose Ortiz was arrested and charged “with breach of peace and threatening in the second degree and first-degree reckless endangerment.”
*THREE Charges and a $10,000 bond (What?)
Do you see my point now? Your article portrays Jose as the innocent victim and tells us that Jose did absolutely nothing wrong. Carlos Ortiz was arrested for pulling the gun, Espada-Maldonado pulled the knife, and Jose Ortiz…
According to your article, JOSE did not pull a knife or a gun, yet he is the only was who received THREE charges and his bond was double that of Espada-Maldonado. Something caused the officers on the scene to press more severe charges against Jose Ortiz.
I have no personal stake in this, but it is simply frustrating to read an article that is so biased in favor of one party over another… especially when the NHPD determined that Jose Ortiz violated more laws than Espada-Maldonado.
As I already said, New Haven is a relatively small town the reputations and livelihoods of two men/families are on the line. NHI influences public opinion and this article is far from objective. Whether intended or not, this article ignores the facts and takes a side.
you have to try la unicas roasted chicken it is to die for. marinated for days in a secret sauce the meat falls of the bone.
@JIM… Carlos Ortiz was the one charged with THREE counts not Jose. You should re-read the article.
@ANGELO…You are so right. They do have the best roasted chicken ever.
@ Jim, Jose Ortiz only received one charged due to the fact that he did not pull any weapons, he was threatened by Carlos Espada with a knife. Carlos Ortiz pulled the gun when he saw Carlos Espada attempting to stab Jose Ortiz.
EVERYONE PLEASE READ::
All I have to say is that Mr. Carlos Espada has a record of being in and out of prison for drugs related. And Jose and Carlos Ortiz have a clean record, never been arrested. Mr. Espada from day one has been interfering with the other food truck. From what I see Mr. Espada is the one being greedy! He thinks he can be the only puerto rican selling food. Look at how many Mexican trucks are there! Is he serious??? Both trucks have their customers, Mr. Espada is always walking around talking how much he makes, so what’s his problem? Mr. Espada has been making the Ortiz’s life miserable from day one. I’ve been a witness when he would come over and would try to argue, and they ignore him because he is crazy, literally. Also, they are suppose to park 50 feet away and this is what Mr. Espada would do: he would park only one car in between and park his personal van in between both. Why? So La Unica customers won’t have where to park. All I want to know is what is his problem?? La Unica parked at the Criscuolo park and never had a problem, never had a rock trown at the truck, never had to use violence NEVER. And now they go to Long Wharf and this happens, doesn’t it make you all think??? To top is off, Mr. Espada has so many complaints in the city!! It’s not even funny. People get your facts straight
Are you serious Mr. Reyes?? We are here to try to defend our businesses around the area and you are talking about their chicken?? I do agree that La Unica has some delicious food, not only chicken.
EVERYONE!! This incident happened twice?? A few days before Mr. Espada employee attacked Mr. Ortiz with a knife! For people who goes to both trucks, should of realize that Mr. Espada’s old employee was not there (maybe fired?) and he replace him with someone else the next day. Doesn’t it make you think???
know it all you sound so upset since im outside the box heres what i see la unica defended themselves accordingly. since i choose to no longer were a superman outfit im going to trust that andy rizzo will do the right thing.he is a fair man.now back to their chicken.delicious with plaintains.
know it all, i changed my mind. i loose many nights of sleep regreting things that ive done.dont blame anyone but myself.this one bothers me because la unica has the RIGHT to bare arms,and his life was threatened.what is the differance between the incident on wooster street and long warf. they were both threatened with a knife,and they were both legally carrying a firearm. i encourage every hispanic leader to unite and support one of the few honest little guys on the block.so that this true american,HISPANIC AMERICAN can go on with his life.i am by no means pulling out a race card. just the equality one.