In the early morning hours of Wednesday, the occupation of Bay Ridge’s Fifth Avenue by an outspoken group of local business owners ended, allowing Halal food vendor Sammy Kassen to move down the block to his favorite spot near 86th Street – for now.
Kassen, who according to Brooklyn Paper’s Will Bredderman had promised to circle his cart around the block until the group of surly store owners known as Save Our Streets, led by Lone Star Bar operator Tony Gentile, moved their tables. While Kassen may be back, his Tuesday did not go smoothly.
From Brooklyn Paper:
Carlo Salzarulo, who runs the A&S Pork Store on Fifth Avenue, said Middle Eastern Halal Cart workers shouted at the Save Our Streets members as they rolled by.
“The boys from the halal cart were yelling at the guys at the table, something like ‘I’m an American too,’ ” Salzarulo said.
But Kassen said Save Our Streets members were the ones acting up — and tried to stop them from opening further down the block by calling the police.
“We were trying to be the better person, trying to keep the peace,” Kassen said, adding that he had to wait for several hours before the police would allow them to start serving food. “They were one getting rowdy. They kept telling us, ‘You can’t open here, you can’t open here.’ ”
The police reportedly did not allow Kassen to begin serving food until nearly 11 p.m., although he had arrived on the block with a valid vendors permit at 2 p.m.
Then just before dawn, the Save Our Streets crew retired from their posts – for the time being. Just as he had promised reporters earlier in the week, Kassen victoriously claimed his old corner spot, having spent most of the day closer to the block’s other end at 87th Street.
For their part, Gentile said Save Our Streets had accomplished their mission of bringing attention to what they call the city’s unequal treatment of food carts versus brick-and-mortar eateries.
The group says that vendors have an unfair advantage over stores, which have to contend with expenses such as rent.
“We made our point and it was time for us to pack out,” Gentile said. “If there’s no reform, or signs of reform in the law in 30 days, we will be back.”
It wasn’t clear what, if any, specific changes the rent-paying businesses are requesting to be made to existing laws.
One resident interviewed by Brooklyn Paper said Kassen and Gentile should talk it out.
“I love this restaurant and I love that restaurant,” said Slavik Cucosh, pointing at both the Lone Star Bar and Middle Eastern Halal Cart. “They should sit down like men and square it out. No more of the bulls— we saw yesterday.”