Bench warfare! Ridge group will install seating to shoo away vendors

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Small businesses in Bay Ridge are firing another salvo in their war against popular sidewalk food vendors, this time blocking them by installing benches to reduce the number of spaces available to the hawkers of cheap eats.

Mom and pop shopowners in the restaurant-heavy area near Fifth Avenue and 86th Street have long complained that the rent-free competition is poison — but the city has not acted.

So now the 86th Street Business Improvement District — a merchants group — will install 40 benches as part of a “beautifica­tion project” to snuff out the rivals.

“It’s innovative in that it physically blocks vendors,” said Dena Libner, spokeswoman for Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who is working with small businesses that want to see vendors beat it.

About half a dozen food carts dot the area, where whiffs of lamb curry mingle with the smell of pizza baking. Some of those vendors laughed at the idea of a bench invasion to thwart street food culture.

“It’s very silly,” said Martin Cancetty, who runs a pink frozen yogurt truck that often parks near 86th Street and Fourth Avenue. “It will create more problems than it solves.”

“I know some vendors who would come in the middle of the night and rip them right out,” he added. “Or you’re gonna get a bunch of carts congregating in the same spot.”

The Department of Health already limits food vendors like Cancetty to certain portions of the street. Food trucks must be at least 20 feet from the entrance of a building, on a sidewalk that is at least 12 feet wide, and at least 10 feet from the crosswalk, next to the curb.

The new benches — which are cost the business improvement district $2,000 each — limit those available spaces.

That’s perfectly fine with district President John Logue, who would like to see the cart guys beat it.

“We don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “Shops are paying a premium in rent and they pay a couple hundred bucks.”

Along with rent, storefronts must pay utilities and the business improvement district fee, while mobile vendors only have to pay $200 for a permit and $150 for a license. Last year, Community Board 10 asked the city to forbid all food vendors on Fifth Avenue between 65th and 85th streets, but the request was not granted.

But as business owners slam street vendors, hungry lunchtime crowds — who are enticed by the neighborhood’s diverse ethnic cuisine — love them.

“Sometimes you just want something cheap and quick,” said Debbie Maiurro, who was munching gyro on Fifth Street. “If I want to sit down I’m going to go to a restaurant.”

She might not have to. In two weeks, benches will be installed on 86th Street between Fourth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway and on portions of Fifth Avenue between 65th and 85th Streets, using cash from the business improvement district, plus a city and federal grant.

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Reader Feedback

Tony from Bayridge says:
This is insane. Brick and mortar stores have to learn that in a down economy people are using street vendors for cost savings and convenience. If they want to compete they have to lower their prices and stop passing along the rent increases to their customers.
March 9, 2011, 10:39 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
Boy, I cant wait until all those brick and mortar stores are empty because they could not pay the rent. Who is going to be responsible for picking up after these cart owners that leave their garbage all over the streets? Now, they leave their trash in front of stores that get stuck paying fines if they don't clean up after the roach wagons.
March 9, 2011, 10:58 am
al pankin from downtown says:
the city should ban the carts, they city collects all kind of taxes from the stores. they collect bupkus from the carts.
in boro hall park, in front of marty markowitz office,the food vendor has a spot on the blue stone sidewalk. at the end of the day he puts his trash out for the city parks dept to pick up...they don't cent.
if one of these businesses leave their trash outside they get a $350 fine.
March 9, 2011, 11:07 am
Jeanette Grayeb-Mihal from Bay Ridge says:
These people are just trying to make a living. What's all the hoopla about? We have carts in the city, and we appreciate them. The prices in the local restaurants are beyond the reach of most, and that's the reason the carts are so popular. As for the garbage issue, I would think that a reasonable person could speak with the owners of the carts and work out a solution.
March 9, 2011, 11:25 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
thanks for the benches. now I can sit down and eat my lunch after buying some streetmeat.
March 9, 2011, 11:31 am
Frank from Bayridge says:
Try walking on the grease they leave everyday .
March 9, 2011, 1:08 pm
Frank from Bayridge says:
Also where do they wash and go to bathroom?
March 9, 2011, 1:11 pm
Frank from Bayridge says:
Also where do they wash and go to bathroom ?
March 9, 2011, 1:13 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Every day a van drives onto the sidewalk to deposit this food wagon. I've never seen it being picked up but I'm sure the process happens in reverse.

Who else gets to drive on the sidewalk?
March 9, 2011, 2:48 pm
Joe D from Bay Ridge says:
these store owners need to quit their crying. street meat vendors make money because the food is cheap, tastes good and you can get it fast. 2 zillion benches on 86th street is just going to lead to fat people and children congregating and being obnoxious during the day and drunk people at night. this whole thing sucks. everything was fine the way it was.
March 9, 2011, 4:45 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
Just remember, that guy in the cart hasn't washed his hands in God knows how long. It ain't so quick and cheap after a good case of food poisoning.

Also, the rats love all the garbage these carts leave on the streets. These carpetbaggers cant even bother to clean up the public streets that they spew their garbage all over.
March 9, 2011, 4:55 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Whatever happened to the concept of free enterprise
and the right to make an honest buck?
If food carts gross you out, don't patronize them.
Personally, I have never heard of anyone ever getting
a case of food poisoning from one of them.
March 9, 2011, 5:17 pm
Frank from Furter says:
ever hear of purell?

BTW unless they have a license from DOT for the benches they are illegal and subject to being removed....
The sidewalk belongs to the city not the building next to it.
March 9, 2011, 6:18 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
When someone takes my money, gives me change, and then touches my food, alarm bells about food poisoning go off. That's what made me stop using them.

The bigger issue is the condition they leave the streets in after they have made enough money for that day.

When the stores go out of business after being fined because of trash left by carts in front of their place of business, enjoy the constant stream of rodents going in and out of the abandoned storefront. You can feed them some of your leftovers from the roach wagons.
March 9, 2011, 11:48 pm
JP from Bay Ridge says:
tired of smelling dirty terrorist food lets have more clean Italian food... these people are filthy and have no regard for our safety and health. Rep Peter King for president simper fi
March 10, 2011, 6:37 pm
Janet from Bay Ridge says:
I wouldn't be opposed to more regulation of street vendors. To be perfectly honest I don't actually believe that they follow hygiene standards, the food they sell is unhealthy, and they often litter the street. I can't really see why regulating them would be a problem. We do regulate other, so-called brick and mortar restaurants. Actually I would really welcome it If there were fewer of Them.
March 11, 2011, 5:27 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
We badge regular restaurants with letter grades for their windows - so tacky - how about these guys?
March 11, 2011, 8:53 pm
joeyjuice from Dyker Beach says:
The food carts have a sink in them to wash their hands. The carts are much cleaner than restaurants that harbor mice. Most of the restaurants hire Mexicans to cook the food; they sleep in the park at night and don't properly bathe.
Oct. 22, 2011, 7:59 pm

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