Fifth Avenue food cart battle

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

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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 Follow him on Twitter at!/WillBredderman

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Reader Feedback

Jerry from Bay Ridge says:
Does anyone know how much tax the food cart paid to the city or state
May 12, 2012, 9:48 am
jared from brooklyn says:
The issue isnt just 'Arab descent' and this bar owner knows it. Observant Muslims dont drink alcohol or eat nonhalal meat. How 'many' of them are likely to be his bar customers?
May 12, 2012, 11:10 am
jared from brooklyn says:
Jerry, a year and a half ago a very well known B Ridge bar owner got sent to prison for million dollar tax fraud. Maybe you should expand your horizons.
May 12, 2012, 11:34 am
Max from Bay Ridge says:
Close Lone Star.

Lone Star has rats and roaches and got violations for it

Lone Star brings drunks

Lone Star has fights till 5PM

Lone star plays loud music till 4Am

Close Lone Star
May 12, 2012, 1:02 pm
Porky says:
In what universe does a falafel cart and sports bar compete for the same customers??!? This whole thing is ludicrous. Business is bad - blame the economy or maybe your business model - don't blame the guy selling chicken over rice on the corner for $4
May 12, 2012, 7:31 pm
Toby from Bay Ridge says:
Racist America...
I've seen the problems that rises among Arab americans in Bay Ridge...the insults they take, the hate and now this...

What does "Lone star" have to do with anything related to the food industry...its a bar filled with drunken'd idiots...if anything we should shut down the dozens of bars in Bay Ridge...its a family need for a bar on every corner...

Hinch's is now getting involved? a thing of the past...should of closed that shop years ago..and now blames their lack of business on the $5 halal cart...what a joke...

why dont the brick and mortar shops closed their doors and open a cart as well if they feel the rent is $$$...
May 12, 2012, 8:24 pm
Eddie from Bay Ridge says:
This is about money, but in America when all else fails play the race card. This cart guy is now saying the Vity doesn't have the right to regulate food carts?
May 13, 2012, 8:33 pm
Christina from Bay Ridge says:
There is definitely major racism in bay ridge against anybody who isn't white... but the some of the younger middle eastern generation are giving all of them a bad name, they are rude and disrespectful to everyone, man, woman, or child, they don't care... they are quick to steal and curse like sailors.. it's not all of them, obviously, but it's the ones we see roaming the streets all day... anyhoo... people need to leave this guy alone.. he's just trying to make a living just like the next guy.... leave the halal cart alone!!
May 24, 2012, 7:16 pm
Robert from Ditmas Park says:
It seems many are able to call Mr. Gentile's actions for what they are. This is a capitalist country that has always embraced the concept of competition. If you can't stand the heat, get out the kitchen. Christina, I so loved what you said; a friend of my ours who is white, flat out told my husband and I that we'd stand a better chance in Bay Ridge as a gay couple than as couple of color. I visit Bay Ridge about twice a year now, and I the synergy of the streets exudes a bigotry that is palpable.
May 25, 2012, 8:22 am
A from the block from bay ridge says:
if mr. gentile had a family and kids to take care of and didnt have the means he currently has I am PRETTY SURE HE-HIMSELF would even open a food cart. Every business out there is just trying to provide a living for their families and i totally agree with what "Porky" said- halal carts vs. bars are TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE/CUSTOMERS. Why in the world would a bar compare itself to a halal cart. Lone star's service is horrendous- i know because i used to order from there and the food would ALWAYS come cold. Shame on you Lonestar and Hinch's really should have closed down years ago- not only is the service there bad but they are ridiculously OVERPRICED!
May 26, 2012, 10:50 am
Brian from Sheepshead Bay says:
What would baby Jesus do?
Dec. 10, 2012, 1:15 pm

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