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Fifth Avenue food cart battle

Food vendor vows to take city to court if he's moved from Fifth Avenue

The Brooklyn Paper

The city could find itself in court if it messes with a controversial halal cart some Bay Ridge merchants want removed from Fifth Avenue, lawyers for the embattled food wagon said on Friday — claiming that cart workers are being harassed because they’re Middle Eastern.

Lamis Deek, an attorney for the Middle Eastern Halal Cart and cart manager Sammy Kassen said she would sue the city if it goes forward with a proposal to turn Fifth Avenue and 86th Street into a cart-free zone — forcing the vendor to move from a favored, and profitable, location.

“If we have to take it to the courts, that’s where we’ll take it,” Deek said during a press conference held at the intersection that’s become a battleground between food vendors and brick-and-mortar businesses.

Deek claimed that Fifth Avenue merchants are repeatedly harassing Kassen because he’s Middle Eastern — and claimed that the city has done nothing to stop it.

“He has dealt with epithets and physical threats, and the bullies in this neighborhood have continued to attack him,” Deek said.

Kassen said that a man leaving the Lone Star Bar — whose owner, Tony Gentile, has led the effort to get the cart removed from Fifth avenue — made a pistol gesture with his hand at him and his workers on May 10, telling them that they had to move. Kassen also claimed that he overheard Gentile say that the Brooklyn-born Kassen was not an American and should leave the country.

The bar owner denied all the allegations, claiming that his concerns are strictly economic.

“I love the Middle Eastern community in this neighborhood,” Gentile said, adding that many of his customers are of Arab descent. “They want to play the race card because they know they’re wrong.”

The city’s Department of Small Business Services is considering booting all carts from Bay Ridge after Deputy Commissioner Andrew Schwartz listened to a litany of food vendor complaints from Councilman Vincent Gentile (DBay Ridge) — who isn’t related to Tony Gentile — as well as Community Board 10 members and leaders of both the Fifth Avenue and 86th Street business improvement districts. The civic and business leaders attending the meeting blasted vendors and sided with the neighborhood’s brick-and-mortar restaurants who claim food carts get off easy on rent, fees, and ignore regulations.

Roger Desmond, the owner of the Fifth Avenue eatery Hinsch’s and a member of Tony Gentile’s Save Our Streets campaign — which stopped the Middle Eastern Halal Cart from opening on Fifth Avenue for two days by putting up tables at Kassen’s usual spot and distributing anti-cart literature — said his beef was with city regulations favoring food wagons over neighborhood businesses, not the street-meat dealers themselves.

“They’re making this about race to skirt the real issue,” Desmond said.

Bay Ridge resident Billy Norris, who claimed that Kassen’s customers leave trash all over the intersection, agreed.

“We’re not going to win this because, all of a sudden, they’re making it about race,” Norris said.

But fellow Ridgite Effie Demetriadis backed Kassen and his workers.

“How can they be against them?” said Demetriadis, whose father owned a Shish kebab cart. “We all came to this country for a better life. Why are we fighting each other?”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/#!/WillBredderman

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John from Bay Ridge says:
So there are two places not to go, Lone Star and Hinsch. They should be worry about improving their food and service, which is the real problem. Their real competition are the fast food places and the better restaurants. The reality is that those that buy from carts do it because they want food FAST since they don't have the time to sit and wait half hour for the food to arrive. This means that the fast food joints should be the ones complaining about the carts not Lone Star and Hinsch, the last two places you want to eat at in this neighborhood.
May 14, 2012, 10:22 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I do wish the best for Sammy Kassen, because he is going to need it. If he wins, he should be allowed to sell his food wherever he want, while feeling unhindered about it. Still, I do find the attacks on him very uncalled for, plus he is being scapegoated for the problems that merchants there have nobody but themselves to blame for their failures. If Lone Star really wants to improve, then start within their own building first.
May 14, 2012, 10:45 pm
jay from pslope says:
The more this goes on, the more it raises questions.
First you have Tony Gentile saying its not fair that he has to pay rent and that the cart is nasty. At the same time his own place has been certified by the city to be nasty, and he has not yet said why he thinks that the fact that he pays rent means that he has the legal right to put another lawful business out of business. In addition, NOW he has a councilman taking up his cause.
Since when does what one business pays for rent have jack to do with whether a different business should be allowed to stay in business?
Please Councilman, or anyone, show me a law that says you can shut down a business because its operating costs are lower than another business.
If you can't, then don't be surprised when this cart guys lawyer, instead of suing the city, sues you personally, and it would not surprise me if everyone in the Save Our Streets winds up getting sued.
Is Councilman Vincent Gentile getting some kind of campaign assistance by these so called Save Our Streets bozos? Is that why he decided to get involved and take up their cause so fully?
And is Deputy Commissioner Andrew Schwartz also getting some form of assistance as well? Guess what guys, if there is a lawsuit, then through discovery, those financial records may come out in the open. Could be fun eh?
I also don't get how one council man complains to a Deputy Commissioner, and now all of a sudden city hall is going to boot out a cart guy.
That does not really seem like the proper way for things to happen? Since when does one guy get to decide on who can and can not run a business? Again, I have to ask if this is Russia.
And this Community Board and the business members who had a meeting, was the cart guy even allowed to speak? I see no mention of that anywhere and that seems wrong.
May 14, 2012, 11:25 pm
No Sharia from Bay Ridge says:
Hmm, would that be this Lamis Deek?
http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2012/03/muslim-brotherhood-linked-lawyer-lamis-deek-threatens-bloomberg-and-kelly-palestinian-flags-will-ove.html
May 15, 2012, 12:14 am
Jay from pslope says:
no they are not facts, Pamela Geller does not deal in facts, she deals in bigotry. The person who put that link used a screen name "No Sharia" and that says it all, sounds just like that lunatic Anders Breivik who shot up a bunch of kids in Norway. Its the same crap he spouts. That is what you are into Rob?
You get over yourself Rob, Muppet, that is the best thing you can come up with? You must have gotten straight A's in high school with wit like that Rob. Your comment REALLY adds a lot to the discussion Rob, real man of genius, Gandhi, Lincoln, MKL, Mandela and you, right Rob?
And just for the record, I am not a Muppet, but you Rob are a clown, and even IF I were a Muppet, Muppets are cooler than clowns.
Moving on, because of your STUPID post Rob, and No Sharia's stupid post, its clear that this IS about bigotry after all.
I was hoping that it was not about bigotry, I was on the fence at first, thinking that maybe these guys in the save our streets outfit are just lousy at their jobs and don't know how to speak very well, and maybe not the smartest guys on the block, but that they are just trying to keep their jobs, even if they are going about it in a totally misguided and thug-ish manner.
Unfortunately, now after your post Rob, and No Sharia's, its clear now that, at least in part, there is a bigoted undertone to all of this, and that is really too bad. Maybe it was not there before, and maybe the save our streets have nothing to do with ROB and NO shair's posts, but ROB you and NO Sharia have now bought bigotry into this, shame on you.
May 15, 2012, 1:12 pm
Ahab from Bay Rij says:
Boycott Lone Star, Hinch's and Brooklyn Bagels. Support local businesses that don't scapegoat.
May 15, 2012, 1:49 pm
Vicki from Seattle, WA says:
As a visitor to Bay Ridge to visit my family, I am soooo disappointed to see this silliness going on. One of the many things I LOVE about coming to NYC/Brooklyn/BR is that it DOES have all of these options, it is a little dirty, it doesn't feel/look/smell like the West coast. I've eaten at Middle Eastern Halal Cart --was treated respectfully, did not get sick, loved the food, loved the experience. I also shop at eat at your brick and board establishments. Why are you fighting? Your products aren't even in competition with eachother. Sorry, it does tinge of racism -- and my family who live/and are from BR would agree. So, please just chill. Save YOUR Streets from this kind of fight. NYC should have it all and does. Looking forward to my next visit, hoping Hinsch's hasn't changed too much and that the food cart lives on.
May 15, 2012, 2:10 pm
janeth osorio from bay ridge says:
problem no cart like those should be allow to sell food in bay ridge if we allow to happen
May 15, 2012, 4:22 pm
Barry from Bay Ridge says:
Pam Geller and her anti-Islam group have been tagged as extremist haters by the two major U.S. hatewatch organizations -- the Anti-Defamation League (of B'nai B'rith) and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
http://www.adl.org/main_Extremism/sioa.htm
http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/profiles/pamela-geller
May 15, 2012, 6:18 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If he gets moved arbitrarily, he should have every right to appeal his case. Keep in mind that this would be a violation of his 5th amendment rights in that he not only wasn't given a place to relocate, but also wasn't given any just compensation. If you don't believe me, then read it over in the US Constitution, because it's all there. As for Lone Star, the owner didn't just violate health code regulations, but also noise regulations as well. Who is the real law breaker here I would like to ask about?
May 15, 2012, 6:47 pm
Lynn from Brooklyn Heights says:
I'm surprized that Sammy is considering legal activities - isn't he afraid of ending up in Guantanamo bay?
May 16, 2012, 7:02 am
Lane Lacey from Park Slope says:
Back in his home country, they'd probably cut his hand off for his crimes!
May 16, 2012, 3:38 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I find it an irony that those making statements on the food vendors tend to ignore the violations that some of the local merchants have, which some are even worse.
May 16, 2012, 3:57 pm
jvr from Slope says:
Let's see ...
"Lynn" implies that he's a terrorist,
"Lane Lacey" talks about hand-chopping in this fellow's "home country" (fyi, it's Brooklyn) and nonexistent crimes ...

.. but "Janet" says that his racism claims are bogus and that HE'S the racist.

You can't make this stuff up.
May 16, 2012, 8:40 pm
jay from pslope says:
Lane he was born in the U.S.
May 17, 2012, 12:14 am
Lane Lacey from Park Slope says:
If he was actually born in this country, then why is he so afraid to show us his birth certificate?
Maybe he and his muslim brother Barak are just lying....
May 17, 2012, 12:17 pm
James from Sunset Park says:
News flash people - he's not even arabic, just a gross Italian guy. The food isn't even really Hallan.
May 17, 2012, 12:57 pm
Greg from Bensonhurst says:
What's 'Hallan' -- a mix of challah and LAN?
May 17, 2012, 1:20 pm
Crawford from Bay Ridge says:
PLEASE, fellow Bay Ridge residents, DO NOT patronize Lone Star or Hinsh's.

They have terrible food and are owned by bigots.
May 17, 2012, 3:40 pm
Cranford from Bay Ridge says:
Fellow Bay Ridge residents - please do not patronize the food cart, or fast food establishments on this corner; their food is unhealthy and their presence only cheapens, dirties, and lowers the nutritional Quality of their surroundings.
May 18, 2012, 9:45 am
Cranford from Bay Ridge says:
Sorry if it seems like I am stealing your name, but I am actually Jack Cranford.
May 18, 2012, 9:46 am
Eddie from Bay Ridge says:
Why don't the small locals have problems with McD, B King, Popeye, Five Guys, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, the chain fastfooders right in that area that compete head on with small burger, bagel, sandwich and sit-down places? I couldn't believe it when the Lone Star guy included McD on his list of places the cart took business from. What the hey??
May 18, 2012, 2:27 pm
gary from ps says:
Cranford : they only "lower the nutritional quality of their surroundings" if you eat buildings and if fast food sucks the nutrients out of those buildings.
May 18, 2012, 10:32 pm
Frank from Bay Ridge says:
Anyone who claims there is no element of racism in this neighborhood either doesn't live here, is completely unaware of it (e.g. not the target of racism), or is in serious denial. 20 years living in NYC, last couple in Bay Ridge, and I've seen it firsthand several times.

I believe the issue with the carts has to do with the economic troubles facing certain businesses, coupled with misplaced hate at the "foreigners" who are seemingly doing okay. Hinsch should be fighting tooth and nail against BK, Five Guys, and not the carts. The many school kids in the area walk right by Hinsch and many adults will never set foot in there. From the outside, it looks dark, dingy and uninviting. I myself wanted to visit, but have seen too many negative/mixed reviews to bother, even with the recent re-opening and so-called improvements. I buy from the gyro cart occasionally but NOT at the detriment of Hinsch. Their niche and customer is completely different. I'm in a completely different mindset and mood when I want cart food; a burger joint nearby doesn't come into the equation and vice-versa.

Places like the Burger Bistro (all the way over on 3rd and 73rd) are doing it right. I eat and order from the latter regularly and it's always packed on evenings. They're stepping up and giving customers a great eating experience, rather than scapegoating and starting petty fights with tiny cart vendors that have nothing to do with their eroding customer base.
May 26, 2012, 2:52 pm
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Bay Ridgs (or as i call it Bedrock) is an extremely racist community. On 3 occasions I called 911 to report local thugs (whter boys) harassing non white people - including an Arab deli owner on 3rd ave.

Only a fool would claim this is not race based.

Why dont the two fat ladies who want to 'save our streets' open their books and proov everyone in their employ is legal and on the books. (I guess it is cheaper to get t shirts than white sheets and hoods)

If people are so worried about hand washing etc dont go to the carts. Carts are a part of the very fiber of NYC.
May 26, 2012, 4:27 pm
Francisco from Sunset Park says:
I have been eating from the 86th street 5th ave food carts for a long time, and the food is good. The only thing is i noticed the people who belong to the same community as the halal food cart, get treated better and get served better portions, in some way i understand but i am paying the same money and i am a good customer. i deserve the same treatment. my money is green just like the rest.
Thank You
Frankie
July 23, 2012, 9:32 pm
Anthony from Ozone Park says:
Food carts are dirty and nasty. I rather go to McD's (BEST).
March 14, 2013, 9:49 pm

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