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The War for Fifth Avenue

Controversial cart declared illegal

Brooklyn Daily

The gyro seller that has become the symbol of Bay Ridge’s brewing food-vendor battle is operating illegally, this paper has learned — and now brick-and-mortar businesses are demanding the controversial food cart be booted from Bay Ridge for good.

Sammy Kassen, who manages the so-named Middle Eastern Halal Cart — which was displaced in March after someone bolted two benches onto his usual spot near 86th Street under the cover of darkness — is renting both the cart and the permit from its rightful owner, an arrangement that’s forbidden under city rules.

“It’s not legal to rent a permit or to rent a cart with a permit,” a Health Department spokesperson said.

The news only outraged longtime opponents of Kassen and the Middle Eastern Halal Cart, who are now calling for immediate police action.

“They should be arrested and the cart should be taken from them,” said Tony Gentile, the owner of the Lone Star Bar and leader of Save Our Streets — an anti-food cart alliance of Bay Ridge business owners that took over Kassen’s Fifth Avenue spot for two days in April.

According to Health Department regulations, the city can seize a food cart that doesn’t have proper permits or is operating illegally.

Yet Kassen denied any wrongdoing, claiming that everything he’s doing is above board.

“This is a great business, the inspectors love us, why would we ruin it by breaking the law?” said Kassen.

Kassen admits to renting the cart — which he claims is legal, even though city officials say otherwise.

Sean Basinski, an attorney with the Street Vendor Project who has issued cease-and-desist letters against Gentile and other cart critics, said that Kassen’s apparent violation of city rules is no big deal.

“Jaywalking’s a crime, but it’s an open secret that people jaywalk, and it’s an open secret that people rent permits,” the attorney said.

Basinski estimated that 60 percent of all vendors rent the numbered stickers found slapped on the sides of food carts, and added that his organization is calling for the city to issue more vending certificates to cut down on illegal subletting.

Kassen declined to say how much he pays the cart owner, but Basinski said the going rate for the two-year permit is $15,000 — a whopping 750 percent profit for the permit holder, who pays the city just $200 for the license to grill.

“The answer to the problem of the black market is to put out more permits,” said Basinski.

The city has printed approximately 3,000 mobile food vending permits and is no longer granting new ones. More than 2,000 food vendor applicants are on a Department of Health waiting list, hoping that a current permit holder violates the law and loses his permit.

Kassen has repeatedly claimed that the owner of the cart was a man named Abu Asus, who was living in Jerusalem. But the city says that the actual permit holder is East Elmhurst resident Dimitrios Alexatos.

Alexatos declined to comment for this story. Kassen admitted that he speaks to the Queens resident frequently, but refused to say what their exact relationship is.

It’s unclear if the city will take action against Kassen, but it didn’t remove the benches that were illegally bolted onto Kassen’s favorite selling spot three months ago.

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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Reader Feedback

Ben from Bay Ridge says:
One person in Manhattan has over 200 permits that he rents out for a cool profit.

Others rent daily permits for 30% of gross sales.
June 13, 2012, 3:37 am
Eric from Bay Ridge says:
Huge congrats to Bredderman, who has fanned the flames of what was at the time a non-issue. Maybe this will finally break out into the violence you've been hoping for since Day 1. Then you could finally get that story that would get you hired at the Post, right?
June 13, 2012, 10:56 am
Mark from Bay Ridge says:
If they go after him, they should go after all of them.
June 13, 2012, 11:12 am
Ogden from BR says:
Eric - exactly what violence are you expecting?
The only creepy, offputting behavior Ive seen was from Lone Star and company, what with the stupid corner takeover, big guys 'guarding' the corner and or supporters and leaders online personally sliming the vendor. You're gonna blame Bredderman for covering it?
June 13, 2012, 7:13 pm
just sayin from bay ridge says:
"This paper has learned" how? paper called health dept on hunch, health dept made big public statement, someone threw note in paper's window???
June 13, 2012, 11:08 pm
John from Park Slope says:
Shouldn't the rules be applied to everyone, or is Sammy exempt from the law?
June 14, 2012, 10 am
John this is Richard from Bensonhurst says:
John
Sammy is exempt from the law. He will say religious discrimination. Lone Star causes more problems than Sammy.
June 14, 2012, 11:42 am
FK from Bay Ridge says:
Get rid of all carts in our Neighborhood NOW!!!!!!!!!
June 14, 2012, 7:56 pm
FK from Bay Ridge says:
Rid Bay Ridge of all food arts NOW!!!!
June 14, 2012, 7:56 pm
G from Bay Ridge says:
Instead Of Picking On a Guy trying To Make A Living, Why Don"t They Raid The Lone Star , For Serving Minors.?
June 15, 2012, 8:16 am
ammanda from bayridge says:
hey will, i thought that a great reporter is called great because they get their stories right why dont u make sure that u get ur facts right before writing something if their illegal why in hell are they still on their spot ur just a buyer reporter .... i went to get a gyro yesterday and i spoke to them and asked them if their planing on leaving they said that as long as their legal they'll never leave their spot to be honest to you you just look stupid
June 16, 2012, 10:04 pm
Patrick from from bay ridge says:
Ammanda that is a good point i never notice that if Will Bredderman is claiming that the 86 street food cart is illegal why are they still there because am sure if they were really illegal they would have been shut down immediately especially after all the press these story got,it went so far that it reached the Mayors office, i have to agree with ammanda.WOW will Bredderman did you report us the people of bay ridge a lie for your own selfish needs ?
June 16, 2012, 10:34 pm
Ryan from Bay Ridge says:
I have seen, with my own eyes, underage people served alcohol at Lonestar. Thats much greater of an issue than a guy selling food a full block away. I said it before and Ill say it now, Lonestar ——ing sucks and causes more problems with drunks than any street cart could. I hope that ——ing loser Gentile goes out of business.
June 28, 2012, 9:32 pm

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