Bay Ridge food cart battle

Middle Eastern food cart blocked by benches on 86th Street

Brooklyn Daily

A controversial Bay Ridge food cart is fighting for its life — and its location — after someone installed a pair of metal benches in its usual spot on Fifth Avenue near 86th Street on Thursday.

Two mysterious benches materialized on the neighborhood’s busiest retail stretch after months of tension between Middle Eastern Halal Cart and nearby business owners, who claim the gyro seller pollutes the sidewalk, attracts rowdy drunks, and gets off without paying the same steep rents as brick-and-mortar restaurants.

In fact, one 86th Street bar owner was hoping to uproot the food cart by installing flower beds on its prime piece of sidewalk real estate when the seats popped up sometime after 4 am — after Sammy Kassen, the cart’s manager, closed up shop for the night.

“Once we left, like robbers, they came and put these benches in,” said Kassen, who had to dismiss his workers for the day and tow the cart away, since his business is only licensed to sell at that corner.

It’s not clear who’s behind the benches. The Department of Transportation said it did not authorize the installation of the seats and 86th Street Business Improvement District manager Patrick Condren, whose organization is in charge of overseeing improvements to the area, denied any knowledge of or involvement in their mysterious appearance.

Staffers for Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and police officers from the 68th Precinct were similarly clueless about the origin of the benches.

But wherever the mismatched street seats — one black and one green — came from, business owners and residents on the block are thrilled to have them.

Tony Gentile, owner of the 86th Street watering hole Lone Star Bar, has long complained about the food cart, going so far as to apply to have planters installed in Middle Eastern’s parking space.

“The corner is filthy,” said Gentile, who insisted he didn’t install the benches himself. “They pour grease onto the sidewalk, they’ve got their customers sitting around eating, and they just leave their garbage. Nobody cleans it up. I see mice and rats coming out of the grate and eating the rice on the sidewalk. It’s a quality of life issue.”

Robert Kundert, whose apartment is directly across the street from Middle Eastern’s typical parking spot, says the cart attracts unsavory characters whose noise keeps him up into the small hours of the morning.

“All night long it’s the same thing. People double-parked, cursing, fighting. They wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” Kundert said. “When they’re not there during the Muslim holidays, the corner’s quiet.”

Kassen defended the business, saying that Middle Eastern pays permit fees and sales taxes, and that it routinely cleans up its corner.

The benches will only make his staff suffer, according to Kassen.

“We’re like everybody else here,” he said. “We want to work, we want to make money. Our business is permitted to be here. This can’t be legal.”

Kassen might be right — the Department of Transportation says it plans to remove the unsanctioned street seats, though it’s unclear how long the benches will remain in place, and how long the pita venders will be without a home.

His sidewalk business isn’t popular with neighbors, but Kassen says his cart shouldn’t be held responsible for the behavior of its customers, considering it might actually foster peace among Bay Ridge night owls

“There’s a lot of bars here, a lot of young people,” he said. “If anything, I’d think that the food would calm them down.”

Reader Feedback

Betty from Bay Ridge says:
Completely ridiculous. The cart left standing across the street has substandard chicken over rice. I nearly gagged on it. I want this cart back now!
March 24, 2012, 12:24 am
Shurlee from New Rochelle says:
Betty, you a shiznit. I for one am appalled that they cancelled House. That's a good dang show if I ever saw one. Mmmhmmmmmm...
March 24, 2012, 8 am
MARGARET from DUMAS says:
CALL ME
AT 718-85
84957
March 24, 2012, 10:54 am
Red from Bay Ridge says:
I happen to live around the corner from the Halal cart my apt. is in close proximity to Lone Star. Yes, it's really annoying having teenagers sitting around the cart. It's also really annoying hearing pumped-up sports fans yelling J-E-T-S! and not to mention Lone Star blasts music occasionally. That being said, the Halal guys have a right to be there, the benches don't and Lone Star should just put up with the kids because the cart across the street is not nearly as good!
March 24, 2012, 10:56 am
Jake says:
Hey Robert Kundert, maybe you are hearing all loud noises and curses throughout the night because you live across the street from LONE STAR!! But I'm sure you're right people in front of a food cart are fighting and cursing rather than people at a popular bar.
March 24, 2012, 2:19 pm
Jake says:
Hey Tony Gentile, I know all the garbage on the floor really ruins bayridge. Also those football size rats that only you have seen are absoulity disgusting. But hey Tony you're right, the halal cart is a "quality of life issue". Tony you own a BAR!!! I'm glad Lone Star takes quality of life into account when serving people. It's funny for you to call the food cart a quality of life issue when your bar is notoriously known for serving minors. But you're right, the 6 napkins on the corner are much worse than the 18 year old who drives home drunk after leaving your bar.
March 24, 2012, 2:28 pm
Balthazar from Bensonhurst says:
Hey Tony Gentile,

It's clear to me that you stole these benches from in front of some other bar to draw business to yours. This is just yet another cash grab so people can buy overpriced, undercooked burgers and soggy chicken fingers from your dive bar. Never drank such piss-tasting swill in all my life, I swear.

Now these guys from the halal cart, they have excellent food. not like the cat turds that come out of the litter box you call a kitchen. People like you, you and your kind, have messed up the world for people like me, who wait for an empty space, before we go to the cart.
March 24, 2012, 4:56 pm
Joe B from Brooklyn says:
Oh get outta here with that nonsense. The halal cart has garbage cans right next to their cart. They should not be reliable for attracting these "drunk noisy people" meanwhile your 'horrific' bar attracts a bunch of sad drunks. And your 'quality of life' bologna statement does not make you a saint because you're notorious for serving minors alcohol, even when you bounced at Peggy o'Neils. Leave the working man alone, if Anything that cart helps
Bring you business because your on his corner.
March 25, 2012, 7:57 am
Giovanni from Bay Ridge says:
Tony Gentile is a piece of garbage. Ask him where that money from his "Cancer" benefit really goes. Right into his pocket, and then into Russian massage parlors.

Tony Gentile is a piece of garbage and he is worse than the grease that the Halal Cart produces.
March 25, 2012, 1:59 pm
KA from Bay Ridge says:
I live on this block and that food cart is disgusting and so is the trash that comes along with it! The day the food cart wasn't there was great! It was so nice to actually be able to walk on the corner without the smell and garbage and people standing there eating food! IT IS GROSS! Many older people were enjoying those benches that day and the corner was nice and clean. There's a food cart right across the street... it is really unnesccesary for 2! Our neighborhood has become disgusting and this is one of the many reasons why! They should make the carts go somewhere else and keep the benches, plant some trees or flowers and make our streets look beautiful the way they should be!!And to people who are saying everyone loves the food that is just not true because I am someone who finds the whole thing dirty and disgusting! Also i dont personally know Tony but there are many days i see him out on the avenue sweeping up after the food carts and the whole avenue! So good job Tony trying to make our neighborhood better!
March 26, 2012, 3:34 pm

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