Today’s news:

Sh-WAR-ma! Ridge group seeks city ban on food vendors

The Brooklyn Paper

Food fight!

At the request of Bay Ridge merchants and neighbors, Community Board 10 is pushing the city to ban street food carts from the bustling business district on 86th Street between Fourth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway, as well as Fourth and Fifth avenues between 84th and 88th streets.

Non-food venders are already barred from the busy commercial spines.

“It’s really becoming an issue for small businesses,” said CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who told The Brooklyn Paper that her office has been flooded with complaints about the meat and produce peddlers. “Our small mom and pop stores are now competing with these vendors on the corner — and the vendors don’t have the overhead that the merchants have.”

The board — which received no response from the city after issuing a similar request last year — scorned the halal and hot-dog sellers for odors, litter problem, and for operating “mini-restaurants” staffed with as many as two grillmasters in the carts and one waiter on the sidewalk.

Bay Ridge restaurateurs added that the real problem is competition.

“Nobody likes them because they are stealing our customers,” said Dogan Karakas, owner of the Brooklyn Kebab Factory at the corner of 86th Street and Fourth Avenue. “They sell the same kind of thing that we do — though ours is 100 percent better, but sometimes people just want something quick and they go to them.”

But Middle Eastern food vender Elyes Muileh said it’s the restaurants — and not his falafel sandwiches — that stink.

“We’ve got different food than [the restaurants] — and ours is better. It’s like they’re trying to take my job and send me home broke.”,” said Muileh, who operates a cart at the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Sidewalk peddling advocates claim that vendors aren’t the reason why Bay Ridge restaurants are suffering.

“They don’t have the same customers, they don’t have the same menus,” said Cheikh Fall, co-director of the Street Vendor Project. “It’s very easy to find a scapegoat.”

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jed from bay ridge says:
The vender guy has a point - they don't have the same customers.
If someone just wants a fast on-the-run bite, he-she doesn't WANT a $7 sandwich or an elaborate platter from some sit-down joint.
As for fruit venders ... what are they competing with: our few supermarkets' anemic produce departments? some delis that carry a limited bit of so-so fruit as a formality? a few far-flung fruit stands that are only convenient if you live down the block from them?
June 26, 2009, 2:39 pm
Big V from park slope says:
It's amazing how these Community Boards, Business Improvement Districts, whatever, will take the ill-founded complaints of one or two people who don't like competition and generalize them into "a community wide problem." The only people complaining about streetvendors are (maybe two?) store owners. Everyone else thinks they're great. No wonder the city ignored them when they tried to pull this stunt a year ago. Last year they said "the issue is cleanliness." Why is the issue this year competition? Because "cleanliness" (despite being next to godliness) got them nowhere. Morons. I hope they fail and get voted out of office.....
June 26, 2009, 3:03 pm
Ben K. from Park Slope says:
Store owners would rather complain about competition than improve their products. If supermarkets had decent produce and if restaurants had food that could match the street vendors' offerings, this wouldn't be a problem.
June 26, 2009, 4:23 pm
Rhywun from Bay Ridge says:
Yep, rent-seeking pure and simple. When you can't compete, you get the state to destroy your competition for you.

OTOH, I have my own problems with vendors, not in Bay Ridge where the sidewalks are generally nice and wide, but in places like lower Broadway and the Villages where you have to walk in the street because there's not enough room on the sidewalk.
June 26, 2009, 9:30 pm
Bob R from Bay Ridge says:
“It’s really becoming an issue for small businesses... Our small mom and pop stores are now competing with these vendors on the corner” said CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

It's really disappointing to see Mrs. Beckmann and Community Board 10 take such a childish position. It stinks of cronyism, and if the comments here are any indication, is not a position shared by a majority of *real* Bay Ridge residents.
June 26, 2009, 9:59 pm
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
Just another example of how New York City, under the Bloomberg administration, is gaining revenue from vendor leases at the expense of small businesses owned by the middle class. What is worse, is he will be our mayor for the forseeable future, thus continuing the slow bleeding of the middle class's economic base. I hate this city, and every Democrat in it, including myself. The middle class is getting killed, and not even the middle class gives a sh#@.
June 27, 2009, 11:05 am
Steve from Bay Ridge says:
Ah please don't take away my beloved street meat. 86th and fifth next to Chase is the best!
June 27, 2009, 11:37 am
Get Real, pls from Bay Ridge says:
Oh for pete's sake ... near 86th and Fourth, we've got FOUR places selling basically the same food:
... Karam, at 4th near 85th,
... Plaka (the Greek place) at 86th & 4th;
... Brooklyn Kebab Factory, which is right across from Plaka, and
... Bab Alhara, which opened a few months ago around the corner from K.F., on 86th.

With that density of falafel/hummus providers, how can they even TELL who's "stealing customers"?

Customer-stealing is an especially specious claim when made by Kebab Factory: That place literally JUST OPENED. Heck, IT probably stole customers from Karam, Plaka AND the street venders -- all of which long predated the Kebab Factory.
June 27, 2009, 9:08 pm
Gourmand from BR says:
Yeeesh, the kebab place just opened maybe 3 months ago. In 3 months, they decided that vendors are swiping their business? it's not that they opened right on top of similar fooderies? or that people tried them but opted for longtime or better priced places?
Sounds like they can't compete and can't shut down the other shops so are hitting the vendors. That _stinks_. We started to go there because it was right near the train, but we're crossing them off our list. They'll probably blame the vendors!
June 28, 2009, 3:34 am
eric from sunnyside says:
I have friends who come to visit every year from down south. They mention the food cart vendors as one of the many things NYC has to offer that they can't get at home.

I agree the food vendors make nyc what it is. By the way, they also patronize nyc restaurants when they don't want halal wraps, hot dogs or shishkabobs,or when they want to sit inside and have a drink or two with their food.

Also the vendors are often there for you in the early morning hours after the restaurants close-my fave is at the corner of w 14th and 8th in chelsea. He's there until about 3am. A welcome site after a night on the town when the restaurants are closed. Youcnt bet his halal's for 5 bucks-delicious and fill you up!
July 1, 2009, 5:07 am
willem vonk from sloop park says:
it is simple, there is a place for all but food vendors should stay away, several hundered feet, from any store front food establishment. in addition they should move continualy from spot to spot instead of planting themselfs in one place on a daily basis.it is just impossible for a store front to compeet with a vendor no matter how good the food is. the overhead is to much compaired to a vendor. plus vendors rely on impulse buyers that want quick cheap food. as a store front you loose any time on all fronts. maybe we should all become vendors and line the streets.
July 6, 2009, 12:33 pm
Jason from Bay Ridge says:
willem vonk from sloop park says: 'it is simple, there is a place for all but food vendors should stay away, several hundered feet, from any store front food establishment. in addition they should move continualy from spot to spot instead of planting themselfs in one place on a daily basis.it is just impossible for a store front to compeet with a vendor no matter how good the food is.'

That's ridiculous. These particular vendors aren't near storefronts selling the same kind of food, and don't get the same clientele as the places they ARE near. People who are in a rush, want a mideast-type lunch, or must eat halal food, aren't going to line up in McDonald's or eat muffins, eggrolls, or coffee-shop takeout.
Your plan would be like barring all vendors from the vicinity of ANY store, as if a kiddie-book vendor would take business from a newsstand, or as if a guy selling "I Love NY" gear would be competing with Century 21.

Brooklyn Kebab Factory's complaint about the vendors is inane, since BKF is far from those vendors -- AND it's a new place, AND it opened up right across the street from two longtime restaurants that sell the very same food that BKF does!
July 7, 2009, 4:08 pm
Mark from Bay Ridge says:
People are also missing another important fact: A plate of food at the Brooklyn Kebab Factory or at Bab Alhara will run you anywhere from $12-$15.

For takeout.

Who the heck wants to spend that much on takeout? Chinese food restaurants regularly sell just as good of a plate of food for $7-$9.

These restaurants could compete with the $5.00 food carts if they lowered their prices a good bit. And also if they had the magical white sauce and hot sauce.
July 11, 2009, 12:02 am
Allen from Bay Ridge says:
Mark - as someone who eats this stuff regularly: I agree and disagree, in part.

Disagree re Chinese vs. Mideast food. 'Just as good' is relative. If I want shishkebab, baba ghanouj, or mideast salads-sandwiches, I don't want Chinese, and vice-versa. [I mean, cheap takeout pizza and pasta are just as good as other foods ... so 'who the heck' would want a pricier deli sandwich, coffee-shop takeout meal, etcetera?]

Agree - Kebab Factory is expensive compared to the other 3 kebab-type restaurants near that corner. Can't get out of there cheap - mostly high-end platters and 'appetizers,' few lower-end options like sandwiches, prices are notably higher than the other places'.

Disagree - because Bab Alhara isn't expensive. Like Karam and Plaka: it's cheaper than Kebab F., and has a lot of cheaper options, offers many sandwiches, etc.

I can't speak for Plaka (don't get there much, though it's good), but Bab Alh. and Karam are always busy when I stop in or go by. The same is not true of Kebab Fact., even when you take footage into account (that the small places would "seem" more crowded).
So somebody thinks this food is worth it - though it's not your preference, and though they might be bypassing the Kebab Factory.
July 13, 2009, 1:17 pm
Frank from Bay ridge says:
No People you are ALL missing the point. I dont feel that every time I and others walk past 86th and 5th ave which is every day of my life that I have to smell halal food which I do not care for and have to excuse myself when I'm walking through the line of people waiting for food. though the resturants in the area have a point, I don't want to smell cooking meat on a street corner every day of my life. It is simply unfair. These carts operate about 20 hours a day on 2 corners right across the street from each other. Do people who arent trying to make money on the street have rights too? or do these vendors now own those corners?
Sept. 24, 2009, 1:46 pm
Mahmoud from Bay Ridge says:
I think that in this capitalistic economy, people are are given the opportunity to take advantage of whatever is available to them. In fact, an economy like ours actually encourages people like Elyes to go out there and start a business. We are in America, not in some other country where there is a dominating government butting into other people's business. I believe that as long as these carts do not pose as a safety haphazard to the people in the area, then there is no problem with them being there...
April 2, 2010, 5:35 pm
John from Honolulu, Hawaii says:
This is very funny!
Dec. 12, 2012, 1:59 pm

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