If you’re wondering why the streets NYC are over-saturated with dry, bland soft pretzels and suspicious “dirty-water” dogs, look no further than the NYPD, says economist Adam Davidson in the New York Times. Despite the popularity and draw of specialty food carts, many potential vendors are reluctant to enter the mobile-eats business because of the tangled bureaucracy that governs it. Street vendors face a long list of rules that may or may not be enforced. Among them: “Trucks can’t sell food if they’re parked in a metered space . . . or if they’re within 200 feet of a school . . . or within 500 feet of a public market.” There’s also the problem of location—while food truck vendors are rarely ticketed in Chelsea, the higher-trafficked Midtown West has a “dedicated team of vendor-busting cops.”

Who is really winning from the current regulations for running a food truck? The answer is the shady business of authorized commissaries, who provide mandatory daily cleaning services, sell food products to the food carts, and act as a (not quite legal) brokering service for permits. The result is a fleet of carts offering the low-quality, lackluster products that you are most likely to encounter on the street.

What’s a food truck owner wannabe to do? Probably just throw in the towel and open a brick-and-mortar shop instead, to the disappointment of anyone wandering through Central Park or Prospect Park in search of something actually worth eating.

[via The New York Times]