For the past 32 years Dennis Timpanaro’s silver coffee truck has been parked weekday mornings by the escalator of the serving everyday commuters who seek their cup of Joe or breakfast sandwich before entering the train.
“I get up early morning knowing I have to be there for them,” said Timpanaro, who often will run up the escalator to bring a commuter their coffee as they race to board their train. “I like to make them happy.”
Now Timpanaro is in danger of getting removed from his longtime spot where he has become a familiar friendly face serving one of the LIRR’s busiest stations. In late Janauary, Timpanaro was informed that another coffee truck operator has been chosen for the Wantagh train station following a competitive bidding process, and a letter-writing campaign is underway to try and convince the MTA to reconsider its decision.
“Dennis is a friend to all and has served the ridership faithfully,” said Seaford resident Sean Roberts, who uses the Wantagh LIRR station when commuting to Jamaica, Queens and is urging people to contact the MTA protesting their decision to not bring Timpanaro back.
Timpanaro put in a bid for roughly triple his current rent but was informed by letter that another operator had been selected. The Islip Terrace resident was told orally he would need to leave the Wantagh train station in two months.
Timpanaro was one of three concession owners that responded with bids for the Wantagh station to a request for proposals (RFP) that MTA Real Estate issued last August. MTA spokesman Sal Arena said Timpanaro’s bid came in as the lowest and the highest proposer, Freeport-based Gonias Catering, entered a proposal that was 75 percent higher.
“While we recognize and appreciate Mr. Timpanero’s long service at Wantagh, an experienced coffee truck operator submitted a proposal that was more financially advantageous to LIRR,” Arena said.
Despite the MTA’s decision, Roberts is leading an effort to prevent Timpanaro from having to leave his longtime station and is urging people to write letters and e-mails to the MTA and local elected officials.
“We feel that Dennis should be grandfathered in and should be left alone or at minimum should have been give a chance to match the winning bid,” Roberts said.
This is not the first time that Timpanaro has been at risk of having to leave the Wantagh station, where he operates Monday to Friday from 5:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. before making other routes around the area. In October 2009, the MTA tried to remove Timpanaro’s truck arguing that coffee and breakfast items he sells could instead be sold from the station’s newspaper kiosk. What followed was strong opposition from many Wantagh LIRR commuters via letters and e-mails, and the MTA eventually backed off its position.
Arena said existing concessionaires like Timpanero have been conducting business at LIRR stations on month-to-month agreements that date back to the 1970’s or earlier and during this time the compensation they pay has not increased at all.
“The RFP that MTA Real Estate issued this past August was part of an effort to both enter into new, 10-year agreements with coffee truck concessionaires at these stations and to bring the compensation they pay to LIRR up to market levels,” Arena said.
Many everyday Wantagh LIRR commuters when learning that Timpanaro may be forced out, said they will not buy from any concession that replaces his.
“I’m not buying coffee from anyone else,” said Ellen O’Keefe. “Dennis is the best.”