University must involve the trucks


When talk of remobilizing College Avenue’s long-cherished grease trucks surfaced in 2011, the University community was rightly outraged. Facebook groups and T-shirts proclaiming “Save the Grease Trucks” began cropping up after The Daily Targum first broke the story in November 2011, and many saw the plans — which first called for the trucks to file for a request for proposal process — as a threat to the very existence of the trucks — and by extension one of the University’s few long-standing traditions. And indeed the plans might have posed such a threat, seeing as the process would have, among other things, required the vendors to bid their way back into Lot 8.

But the grease truck owners probably knew few of the details of the RFP plan at that time. Even then, the University did a poor job keeping them involved in the process.

Now, however, things have changed. The University recently announced plans to construct, in partnership with the New Brunswick Development Corporation, several new University buildings across the College Avenue campus, including a new honors residence hall and a parking deck. The project would involve the development of 674,000 square feet of land — part of which would include the current home of the grease trucks. But what hasn’t changed, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the amount of effort on the part of the University administration to inform the trucks and their owners of their own fate.

The University’s actions — or lack thereof — relating to its handling of Lot 8 and the grease trucks is pretty shocking.

Despite possibilities of construction beginning as soon as December, the owners are still being kept in the dark about the future of their location, their businesses and the trucks as a cornerstone of University tradition. In an interview last week, Ahmed Ahmed, a long-time manager of the RU Hungry? truck, told Targum that he has not yet heard from the University about whether the trucks and his business will have to relocate. “We read a couple of stuff about this issue in the newspaper,” he said, “but we haven’t received anything officially yet so we’ll see what is going to happen.” Between any partners in business, this sort of behavior is obviously reprehensible. But given the place the trucks occupy within the cultural fabric of our own community, the issue is compounded.

The crux of our complaints comes down to not whether the University actually has solid plans for the grease trucks. We’re sure they do, given the importance the trucks bear on the community. It is, rather, that they’ve made little to no effort to inform the owners of the plans. When the University organized an ad-hoc committee in 2011 to evaluate the status of the grease trucks and their operations, the trucks’ owners were not invited. Grease truck owners should not have to rely on bits of information thrown out by local news sources to learn of decisions that directly affect the welfare of their businesses. Furthermore, student and community member outcry back in 2011 made it very clear that the tradition the grease trucks embody is not something that we wish to see disappear. Given these concerns, University administration has little reason to withhold information regarding plans for Lot 8 and the grease trucks.

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