Today’s news:

Standoff! Brick-and-mortar merchants occupy food cart sites in Bay Ridge

Brooklyn Daily

The simmering cold war between Bay Ridge’s food vendors and Fifth Avenue’s brick-and-mortar businesses boiled over on Monday morning when merchants occupied two prime pieces of sidewalk used by popular neighborhood gyro sellers — sparking a heated standoff that could last well into the night.

Local merchants from a new group called Save Our Streets, led by Lone Star bar owner Tony Gentile, set up folding tables on both Fifth Avenue and 86th Street at 7 am — taking over the food vendors’ spots — and sold newspapers and cookbooks. They also handed out T-shirts and literature about how food carts destroy neighborhood businesses.

But the irate vendors have vowed to reclaim their turf — escalating war for control on the busy intersection — with one food cart operator promising to circle the block until merchants break down their table and go home.

“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 said they won’t remove Gentile’s folding tables because they’re legal — and some residents agreed.

“They’re not paying rent,” resident Michael Kerrigonh said of the vendors. “The hard-working people here pay rent and contribute to the community.”

The standoff is only the latest skirmish in a long-simmering feud between the two sides.

Business owners have long complained that the food carts pollute the sidewalk and attract rowdy drunks. Kassen, who pays $200 for a two-year permit allowing him to sell on the street, cried foul, claiming he and his fellow vendors have done nothing wrong.

Things got messy a few weeks after the benches were mysteriously put in: Kassen was backing into his new spot a few feet from the benches when he hit Gentile with his cart, who was blocking his path. No charges were filed and Gentile was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Last month the manager of the 86th Street Business Improvement District refused to remove the rogue benches.

— with Will Bredderman

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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Reader Feedback

peppertree5706 from Sheepshead Bay says:
A symptom of a sick economy. Not enough wealth to go around. In good times everyone will thrive, but not now.
Consider that, the next time you vote.
April 30, 2012, 11 pm
John from Buchigross says:
This article is very biased. Makes the cart vendors seem very nasty when in fact, the majority of the community supports them. My sons love the food cart and eat the delicious middle eastern dishes at least once a week.
May 1, 2012, 3:47 pm
albo from bay ridge says:
These irish f**** your a bar owner what does food have to do with liquor this is more of a racist act you ficl
May 1, 2012, 3:51 pm
ammanda from bayridge says:
listen to the lies he didn't hit him we all were there he claimed that they hit him it was a cheap shoot by him he tried forcing them to shut their business by pretending that he got hit by their cart and now that he failed he put hes fold tables on their spot ha ha how pathetic of him i really petty u tony
May 1, 2012, 4:40 pm
Ryan from Bay Ridge says:
Tony you stupid ass. Let the guy have his business. You run a bar. Wanna know why you lose business? Cause the food you offer sucks. Leave the guy alone —— muffin. Plus other than the outdoor deck, your bar still kind of sucks.

Whats does arabic halaal food have to do with a bar anyways? Stop being a racist bigot.
May 1, 2012, 5:48 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
John, I would tell your sons to be careful. I've heard of two separate cases of people contracting salmonella from that EXACT food cart.
May 2, 2012, 12:10 am
Alan from Bay Ridge says:
Very best wishes to the cart guys. And something else entirely to those who've been pushing "anonymous" (haha!) smears.
May 2, 2012, 3:55 pm
Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
My vote is for the brick-and-mortar businesses 100% of the time.
All you have to do is put yourself in their place and they'll get your support also. They risk venture capital, hire local residents as employees, pay over a half a dozen different taxes and fees to the city, state and federal government and is required to be thoroughly inspected by the health department which results is clearly posted in front of their establishment.

On the other hand you have a completely portable business that sets up shop in an established neighborhood with very little upfront capital to risk. Open-air establishments have been proven to be a high risk factor for food poisoning. They are not required to meet New York City food establishment guidelines and are not rated. If they don't get the business they are looking for a pull up and move elsewhere.

There are many places for vendors to operate such as parks and recreation areas.

Preservation of our family owned businesses should be a priority or we'll be left with are national chain fast food restaurants.
May 2, 2012, 5:44 pm
Eileen from Bay Ridge says:
Albo- look who's talking! This has NOTHING to do with any "Irish f****". Just because he is a bar owner doesn't make him Irish. I believe you are the real racist.
May 2, 2012, 8:05 pm
Florence O'C from Brooklyn says:
First of all Lone Star owner Tony is Italian.
Second If you new Tony he has a big heart.
Third The food served at Lone Star is GREAT especially the hamburgers and ribs.
Fourth If you want to get along (This is for the vendors) Why don't you try and understand these store owners are paying thousands of dollars a month on rent and taxes and you are only paying a couple of hundred dollars every 2 years for a permit.
Who in there right mind wouldn't be upset about the amount of money store owners pay as opposed to vendors.
Ryan from Bay Ridge- You are the stupid ass that nobody wants to do any business with.
May 2, 2012, 9:53 pm
Paul from Bay Ridge says:
Tony- So you, are bar owner, feel the halal carts bring drunks into the area? Isn't it you and your fellow bar owners that get these people drunk? If you're that concerned, why don't you give up your liquor license? Couldn't you serve better or cheaper food if you want to compete with these guys?
May 2, 2012, 10:03 pm
Carla from Bay Ridge says:
These carts should be ban from the neighborhood. They are an eyesore, plus stop to think for a minute, where do these guys go to the bathroom? Where do they wash their hands? I don't even want to know.

I am siding with the store owners on this one. A friend became violently ill after eating something from the cart on 4th avenue and 69th street, the one in front of Rite Aid.
May 3, 2012, 10:49 am
Rocky from Bay Ridge says:
Well Carla you are entitled to state your opinion, just as these boys have the right to be on that corner. Not you or Tony can do anything about it, but ——. We live in country that has laws and they are following the law. If your friend Carla did really get sick from the cart on 69st, then why the hell didn't she call the health department to check up on them. I'm sorry for your friend, but she made the wrong course of action by not calling the health department on them. I eat at least 3 times a week from these cart guys in Bay Ridge, and I have to say Kassen and his crew are by far the cleanest.

Law then opinion remember that. We have a right to say what we want, but not do what we want. What Tony is doing right now is wrong but is legal. Those guys being there is legal. Let them work Tony and go back to your bar and get people drunk so they can eat the Cart's food and not your food.
Bye
May 5, 2012, 3:11 pm

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