“The city’s competitive street food culture has created a thriving black market for mobile food vending permits issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The city charges a mere $200 for most food-cart permits, which must be paid every two years when they are renewed. But it only issues 3,100 year-round permits plus an additional 1,000 seasonal permits—not enough to satisfy demand. Transferring or renting these permits to another vendor is illegal but everyone, including the city’s Health Department, acknowledges, that it happens.Two years ago, the city’s Department of Investigation did an undercover probe of improper permit transfers, which led to six arrests. The department recommended, among other things, that the Health Department move to a competitive sealed-bidding process to help “eliminate the criminal conduct found in the investigation.”
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