Since it briefly threatened the supremacy of St. Marks Place’s Dumpling Man when it opened two years ago, Plump Dumpling, an itty-bitty hut on 11th Street near Second Avenue, has earned a loyal East Village following. But is the business engaging in dumpings as well as dumplings — that is, dumping its cooking oil into the three tree planters outside the apartment building next door?
The building’s property manager, Rex Harris, and its super, Frank Dominguez, think so and have filed complaints with the city’s Departments of Parks (because trees are involved), Sanitation, and Environmental Protection. They say they couldn’t understand why all the plants in the planters suddenly died, then they noticed dark stains on the tree-trunk bottoms and nearby sidewalk, plus an oily (and oily-smelling) film on the planter rails. “I confronted the owner of the restaurant,” said Harris, a burly fellow who takes pride in his planters, “and he denied doing anything.”
We stopped by the spot yesterday. Indeed, there were suspicious dark stains on the tree trunks and some sort of oily grime on the rails, even if the soil looked and plants looked and felt normal. Inside Plump Dumpling, its owner, Peter Day, was meeting with an inspector from the DEP, who later told us that, though illegal kitchen-oil dumping was common, he had no way to confirm that the oily planters were Day’s doing. Day — who is a really nice guy who makes delicious dumplings, according to both Harris and Dominguez — told us his oil is picked up by Tristate Biodiesel, which collects used oil for free from hundreds of restos citywide and converts it to renewable biodiesel fuel. “You think I’m stupid?” Day asked, again denying the dumping charge. “These are my customers,” he said, referring to the apartment dwellers next door.
But Tristate’s Spiro Theofilatos said he has no records of Plump Dumpling being registered with the company, though he allowed that his truck drivers might have begun picking up the shack’s oil informally.
Now hear this, Plump Dumpling: You are being watched. And not only by the coquettish, long-lashed yellow heart-lady who inhabits the sign over your door. —Tim Murphy