The War for Fifth Avenue

Bay Ridge apothecary wants halal cart-blocking benches gone

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Fifth Avenue merchant opposed to street vendors says he’ll pay have the benches someone bolted onto the sidewalk to displace a vilified gyro cart torn out — but his offers are being ignored by the one group that can remove the repositioned street seats.

Habib Joudeh’s Pharmacy on Fifth is more than 15 blocks from 86th Street, where the illegally placed benches forced the Middle Eastern Halal Cart to relocate from a popular selling spot back in March.

But, even though he thinks street meat sellers dirty up the sidewalk, he found himself sympathizing with the uprooted cart workers.

“No one has the right to take the law into his own hands,” Joudeh explained. “The carts are licensed. They’re legally there.”

Yet Joudeh claims Patrick Condren, the manager of the 86th Street Business Improvement District — which is responsible for placing and maintaining street furniture at the intersection — ignored Joudeh when he offered the $425 Condren said was needed to have the benches removed.

“To resolve this issue, I said ‘I’ll put up the money right now,’” said Joudeh, recalling how he offered Condren both cash and a check, but received no response.

But Condren denied ever citing a price for pulling out the benches — and declared that his group was done dealing with the issue.

“We’re not talking about benches anymore,” Condren said. “We’re moving on.”

Joudeh heard about the street seller’s plight when Middle Eastern Halal Cart workers came to the Arab American Association of New York — where he serves as vice president — asking for the group’s assistance.

The Arab American Association of New York ultimately decided not to do anything about the benches, which have become weapons in the ongoing war between brick-and-mortar businesses and rolling entrepreneurs.

The mismatched street seats were put near 86th Street under the cover of darkness on March 22, knocking the Middle Eastern Halal Cart off its usual perch.

Sammy Kassen, the Middle Eastern Halal Cart’s manager, suspected that a group of Fifth Avenue merchants he has had ongoing problems with — who are all members of the 86th Street Business Improvement District — installed the benches, but the businessmen denied any wrongdoing.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the street seats’ forced migration.

A store owner near 87th Street said one of the benches was removed from in front of his business, but said he didn’t know who uprooted it and brought it closer to 86th Street.

The city has repeatedly said that the 86th Street Business Improvement District was responsible for tearing out the benches, but Condren said his group’s rules prevent him from spending money to remove seats that it didn’t install.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at Follow him on Twitter at

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Reader Feedback

Ahab from Bay Rij says:
I love that I now have a place to sit and eat my halal cart food.
May 25, 2012, 10:28 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
The more this issue simmers, the clearer it gets that this has nothing to do with cost, or licensing, or regulations, hygiene, or anything else. It's about race. The food cart operators are brown, probably Arab and/or Muslim. The local "businessmen" and people who run the 86th Street BID aren't, and they don't want them around.

It's astonishing that in this day and age, in the heart of the most diverse city on earth, you have this kind of antediluvian racism. It's astonishing that not one city politician is calling them on it. Isn't it funny how they're all against discrimination against minorities (they like) until it's about discrimination against minorities (they don't like)?
May 25, 2012, 12:19 pm
Hugo Furst from Bay Ridge says:
Antediluvian racism?

Ooooh, big word! That raaaaycist smoke and onion stench have nothing to do with it.

If it is racism to not want a shopping district to descend into a third world market place, than make the most of it.
May 25, 2012, 12:43 pm
Bob from Bay Ridge says:
Really Hugo? You see these trucks everywhere in Manhattan, FANCY downtown Brooklyn, just about everywhere...but not Bay Ridge. And you think it would turn it into a third world country? Instead of the holdover Depression Era wasteland it currently is?

Oh, yeah.

How does the BID get to control those benches, anyway? That's total BS. If they allow something that was placed there illegally to remain there they should be hauled into court, along with anyone defending them.
May 25, 2012, 1:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If it's true that the merchants paid to have those benches, then they should be arrested for such a secret deal.
May 25, 2012, 3:43 pm
Ahab from Bay Rij says:
Halal bench party all weekend long! Get your favorite affordable and delicious sandwich or platter and have a seat on our new benches from which you can view 86th Street's endless line of chain stores, including a McD's which never gets protests from fat redneck save-our-streetsers.
May 25, 2012, 4:03 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
the carts should be banned..they are a blight on the community in any area...they are dirty and are a bunch of businesses given a license for a minimen fee to operate their carts on the sidewalk...who pays the taxes, clean up and trash removal..the city..
does the city collect for these service? no..
try being a store owner, the city collects for everything
the store owner subsitizes the carts who undercut them because the city allows them to operate. this is not normal.
May 25, 2012, 11:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I still find this utter nonsense to hear the merchants saying that Halal Cart guy is the reason this neighborhood is doing bad when it's really them. I would like to see the bar owner of Lone Star clean up his act first before he talks about others. He probably has more violations than many of the food carts combined. Again, by the 5th amendment of the US Constitution, he should have been given a new spot and just compensation when he loses his spot, so he can use the US Supreme Court on this if he wanted to. Last time I checked, isn't just the city that can place benches there, not the BID, who can only suggest but not make the decision on that?
May 26, 2012, 5:46 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
Well, Hugo, you said it, "[I do] not want a shopping district to descend into a third world market place." Because, obviously, if brown people are present then it must make any street instantly "third world?"

Here we have Exhibit A, folks: it's about race. The racists in Bay Ridge don't want brown people, especially, ugh, Muslims, turning their neighborhood into a third world market place. My god, think of the horrible lessons their children could be learning by seeing muslims earn an honest living instead of throwing bombs? It completely undermines the world view they're trying to instill in them and frustrates their efforts to grow a new generation of hateful bigots.

Go move to the Jersey Shore, Hugo. The rest of us in Brooklyn want to live peacefully with our neighbors, no matter what their race, religion, or creed.
May 26, 2012, 7:22 pm
tired of park slope idiots from ft hamilton says:
mike boutros who owns the bagel store and went on fox 5 to talk about why food carts are bad is lebanese.

how about you keep your liberal yuppie park slope mouth shut about shings you dont know anything about scott? your choose to live in a neighbrhood full of nothing but rich white people, who's the racist?
May 26, 2012, 9:35 pm
alec from the ridge says:
Not racist ... but funny how these vendor stories have ended up drawing negative comments about 3d worlders, arabs, muslims, 'THEIR country,' even guantanamo-type slurs.
Most of us know that mideast roots aren't the sole distinction here or with a "halal" cart ... and that most lebanese are christian.
May 27, 2012, 4:27 pm
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
Hey Scott,

If you live in a glass house don't throw stones. Comfortably wealthy and white Park Slope could learn quite a few things about diversity from Bay Ridge, which has a much greater mixture of ethnic, economic status level and religious groups than monolithic Park Slope. And the protagonists in this dispute are all Causcasian, so your allegations of " racism" reveal your ignorance. This is a dispute about money, and an uneven economic playing field that is tilted heavily in favor of the cart operators. Let Sammy and several cart owners set up " shop" 7th Ave in the Slope.
May 27, 2012, 11:21 pm
Partially Hydrogenated from nyc says:
Scott from Park slope is a Cultural Marxist hypocrite who accuses people of being racist while he himself lives in a rich white area. He wants "diversity" as long as its not in his own neighborhood. He also spends the majority of his spare time j**king off into his own dirty socks while watching Tim Wise videos.
May 28, 2012, 1:02 am
Hugo Furst from Bay Ridge says:
Scott - someone says "third world", and you see race and brown people?

Now who's a racist?

Muslims are bomb throwers?

Now who's a racist?
May 28, 2012, 9 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Now that I thinking about what has been going on about this, why is just this guy being singled out here? I am sure that this neighborhood has a lot more vendors that the merchants have no problem with. Why does he have to leave his spot, but the others are untouched by this? I am staring to think that this is racism. Seriously, I cannot believe some of the statements that some are saying about him, and that is real insulting not to mention also being a stereotype. By such logic, all Jews must be into business. However as an Israeli-born Jew, I don't work at anything financial related, so there goes that stereotype. Still, I don't see how his cart is hurting the neighborhood. If anyone is doing that it's the merchants who refuse to clean up after the many violations they got. The vendor is just used as their personal scapegoat for their bad business.
May 28, 2012, 3:23 pm
Bethany from Bay Ridge says:
It's just how things go, when you're unwanted it is probably a good idea to try something else. If he's clever, he'll find a Way to make money without making so many enemies.
May 28, 2012, 6:20 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
To Hugo: Scott and alec are right. There have been some very bigoted anticart responses to brooklynpaper and other coverage of this issue and they have included references to terrorists, religion and 'race.' Scott is not inventing some kind of racism. His comments were a reference to what bigots have said.

To Bethany: A lot of us want the carts here. A lot of us don't want this bullying or don't want bar noise and drunks on the street, but I guess that doesn't count. Would it be ok if stores didn't 'want' another small store due to possible competition? Why aren't the fast food chains 'unwanted'?
May 29, 2012, 9:52 am

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