Sandra Garcia and her sister Aura Lopez rapidly cook food for customers.1/8 Sandra Garcia and her sister Aura Lopez rapidly cook food for customers.
After the lunch rush hour, Lopez takes a minute to step outside the cart.2/8 After the lunch rush hour, Lopez takes a minute to step outside the cart.
The sisters joke and laugh as they make food.|Megan Fu3/8 The sisters joke and laugh as they make food.|Megan Fu
Sandra Garcia has owned this food cart since 1994.|Megan Fu4/8 Sandra Garcia has owned this food cart since 1994.|Megan Fu
The stoves and ranges are over 150 degrees.|Megan Fu5/8 The stoves and ranges are over 150 degrees.|Megan Fu
When the thermometer displays H1 that means it is over 100 degrees in the food cart.<|Megan Fu6/8 When the thermometer displays H1 that means it is over 100 degrees in the food cart.<|Megan Fu
Garcia gets to work at 6 a.m. to prepare for the day.|Megan Fu7/8 Garcia gets to work at 6 a.m. to prepare for the day.|Megan Fu
The cart has two fans that help keep the sisters cool.|Megan Fu8/8 The cart has two fans that help keep the sisters cool.|Megan Fu
Sandra Garcia starts her 12-hour work day at 6 a.m., parked in the Financial District on Nassau Street between Cedar and Liberty.
Garcia, 51, has owned her food cart since 1994, though it has been in her family since 1983, when it was originally owned by her mother and brother.
During the summer, the New York heat can make working almost unbearable. Surrounded by stoves and ranges hotter than 150 degrees it is difficult to stay cool.
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On Tuesday, at 10:30 a.m., the cart was already at 97 degrees as Garcia prepared for the day. She had two fans and a thermometer that displayed the temperature inside.
This week, Garcia said she and her sister Aura Lopez planned to taking one day off because of the heat, but one day is all they can afford.
“I have a headache,” Garcia said, pointing to her forehead. “I have to come to work but this week I have to take one day off.”
When both Garcia and Lopez work the lunch hour, all the stoves are running and the cart can get up to 135 degrees -- a temperature that would be considered an extremely dangerous level of heat.
But for Lopez, 45, staying hydrated is difficult and in some ways not an option. She needs a kidney transplant and gets dialysis for three and a half hours, three days a week. Lopez goes to work right after although her doctors tell her she should rest. She is only supposed to drink one liter of liquid a day -- half the amount of water that is recommended to the average person. In this heat, one liter of liquid including fruits, vegetables, Jell-O and so on, leaves very little allowance for water.
For most of the lunch hour the temperature remained over 100 degrees as the two women rapidly took orders and cooked the food. They knew almost every customer by name and by order and often cracked jokes and made small talk while working.
The cart itself gets so hot that signs have been taped up that say things like “Hot,” “Step Away” and “Hot surface do not touch.”
After the lunch rush the two have a chance to collect themselves and step outside the cart to cool off.
The inside of the cart cools off but only to a still balmy 90 degrees and although the two women are taking Wednesday off, they will be back on Thursday at 6 a.m.