Tensions between Bay Ridge’s brick-and-mortar business owners and the neighborhood’s mobile food cart vendors are on the rise, after an angry group of 5th Avenue merchants occupied a popular sidewalk vendor spot on Monday.
Members of a new group of store owners known as Save Our Streets, which is headed by Lone Star Bar [8703 5th Ave] owner Tony Gentile, sold books and magazines from card tables placed on 5th Avenue and 86th Street – a corner that’s popular with the Halal food carts that dot the neighborhood’s busy commercial strips.
According to Brooklyn Daily’s Daniel Bush, the occupiers also handed out t-shirts and literature stating that food carts destroy traditional neighborhood establishments.
But the vexed vendors have not conceded defeat just yet. One food cart operator who spoke to reporters promised to eventually retake his old place on the avenue.
From Brooklyn Daily:
“I’m going to wait and go back as soon as they leave,” said Sammy Kassen, manager of the Middle Eastern Halal cart, which was forced to move further down the avenue in March when a pair of benches were illegally placed on his usual spot — presumably by outraged merchants.
Yet Gentile says he and his Save Our Streets members will meet Kassen’s waiting game head on and plans to stay put until the vendors leave Bay Ridge.
“I’ll be out here every night as long as I need to be until they’re gone,” said Gentile. “I pay $9,000 a month in rent — these guys don’t pay anything.”
Islam Bauiomy, who lost his longtime spot on 86th Street, complained that the food carts are constantly under attack.
“We don’t bother anyone,” Bauiomy said. “I’m here to work. I have a family and we have to eat.”
Police say the group’s tables are perfectly legal, and are refusing to move them.
Proprietors who rent stores on the neighborhood’s pricey commercial strips have been known to criticize the mobile food vendors for littering, as well as unfairly taking away business from the more expensive brick-and-mortars, which require a much higher overhead to operate.
Kassen currently pays $200 for a two-year permit to operate his food cart on the street.
Things took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when Kassen, who was backing his cart into its new spot – which is just a few feet from the illegally-placed benches – struck Gentile, who was blocking his path. No charges were filed and Gentile was reportedly taken to the hospital with minor injuries.