July 22, 2018 | ° F

U. to open bidding process for Lot 8

Photo by Nelson Morales |

A grease truck employee serves fat sandwiches to customers in Lot 8 for possibly the last semester on Lot 8. Vendors will be eligible to apply for requests for proposal for both mobile vendor licenses and Lot 8 space.

The tires underneath the University’s grease trucks, located on Lot 8 on the College Avenue campus, have been flat for more than 15 years.

But the Mobile Food Vendor Policy Committee, established November 2011, agreed yesterday afternoon that pumping air back into those tires to remobilize the trucks is what is best for the University community.

In their efforts to draft a policy that will apply to future mobile food venders, the committee decided that both Lot 8 and a mobile food vendor license would be put up for public bid in the coming weeks.

“Our goal isn’t to make profit,” said Jack Molenaar, director of the University Department of Transportation Services. “Our goal is to clean up some of the issues we have there and to make sure we break even.”

Photo: Nelson Morales

Jack Molenaar, Univeristy Director of Transportation Services, leads a Mobile Food Vendor Policy Committee meeting.

Molenaar’s committee convened with representatives from other University sectors for a third time at the Public Safety Building in downtown New Brunswick.

Interested vendors must use a request for proposal application. Establishing new policies is necessary because of health, safety and financial issues.

Two separate RFP applications will be provided because of the projected differences between mobile food vendor and Lot 8 policies.

The University’s financial support of the trucks, in terms of security, electricity and grease cleaning, has cost $93,467 since 2007, Molenaar told The Daily Targum in January.

The grease trucks, home to the 15-year-old “Fat Darrell” sandwich, have been situated in Lot 8 for 18 years.

But Ayman Elnaggar, owner of the RU Hungry grease truck, still disagrees to put the lot up for bid and feels he has been left in the dark during the decision-making process.

“For the first time in my life, I can’t find answers for my customers,” said Elnaggar, who has been in the food business for more than 30 years.  “It bothers me.”

He said although he was told in November that he would be a part of the RFP process, he was not informed of yesterday’s meeting.

“People appreciate what I’ve done here, and I don’t know why Rutgers wants to change it,” Elnaggar said.

The RFP application will be available online through the Department of Transportation Services website. Vendors should be able to access the application in about two weeks, Molenaar said.

The committee also reviewed the results of their Mobile Food Vendor survey, completed by a total of 1,812 community members, 71 percent of which were students. The committee also reviewed individual responses.

Survey results revealed that 67 percent of participants ate at the grease trucks less than once a month. The survey also revealed that 37 percent of participants would be just as likely to eat at the grease trucks if they offered a different variety of foods.

Joseph Charette, director of University Dining Services, said that he believes students just want to have a choice of what they can consume.

“Everybody seems to be very vocal in the items that they’re interested in. But when we have those vegetarian items on the menu, they account for only 4 to 6 percent of food that is consumed,” Charette said. “They want it as option, [but that] doesn’t mean that’s what they want to eat every day.”

A co-owner of three night-shift trucks, Samir Alkilani, told The Daily Targum in November 2011 that the grease trucks offer healthy food options, like hummus and wheat pita, grape leaves, salads, vegetarian sandwiches and more.

There is no way to force individuals to choose healthy food choices, even if they are offered, Alkilani said.

“What we’re trying to do is go back to our original intent of creating this area, which is to get the trucks off the street to a safe place to park,” Molenaar said. “What we did is create extra things, which made it more complicated. It was really our doing, though it was all good intentions.”

During a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Governing Council meeting in February, Molenaar said that although the grease trucks have a mobile license, they have not met the rules and requirements necessary to remain on the lot.

“The current owners don’t want to go out to bid, and they don’t want to have to leave at night,” Molenaar said at the meeting. “But if I was there, I’d probably have the same request as well.”

But to possess a mobile food license, a vendor must be mobile, Molenaar said.

The University has used the SouperVan, one of the food vendors also expected to go through the RFP process, to test out several approved locations throughout the campus, including Senior Street off the College Avenue campus, Lot 76 on Cook campus and Cooper Drive.

The committee intends to establish a smaller evaluation committee, which will include student representatives, Molenaar said.

The small committee will evaluate the vendors based on a point system.

“One criteria I think is critical is that the fat sandwich gets higher points. … That comes out loud and clear,” Molenaar said. “We cannot eliminate the fat sandwich option. We would not be successful in that.”

The committee also discussed safe and effective location options for the mobile vendors, pointing out high traffic pedestrian areas.

“You really need a high level of pedestrians to make it work,” Molenaar added.

Elnaggar said they are willing to cooperate with the University and its needs.

“Everything Rutgers brought up, we found an answer [for], and we’re willing to cooperate all the way for it,” Elnaggar said. “What I don’t understand is why they insist to move us from here.”

He said that his mission is to serve the University community — students, staff, faculty and New Brunswick residents — in the best way he can.

“If the students, faculty and staff don’t want me to stay — fine, I’ll leave tomorrow. If you’re not happy with my service, my food and my prices — let me know. I will leave and I won’t need to apply for an RFP,” Elnaggar said. “But if the people want me to stay, I will do the best I can to stay. But if Rutgers doesn’t want me to stay, I can’t fight Rutgers.”

By Jovelle Tamayo

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