A Fifth Avenue bar owner, bitter over an ongoing feud with a neighboring food cart vendor who was displaced when someone put a bench at his usual selling spot, struck back at the halal wagon this week by filing a cocktail of complaints with the city’s health department.
Lone Star Bar owner Tony Gentile claims he has video to bolster the 31 complaints he made to the city against the Middle Eastern Halal Cart, showing that owner Abu Asus is running a rank mobile operation at the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue — about 100 feet from his taproom.
The bar owner claims he made the videos after the food car rammed into him on March 24 when he and several other business owners, whom he wouldn’t identify, tried to block the cart from setting up shop.
“I want to restore the quality of life here to what it used to be,” said Gentile, who took steps last month to have flower beds installed at the cart’s former site, between 86th and 87th streets, before a pair of benches appeared inexplicably there under the cover of darkness — forcing the Middle Eastern Halal Cart to move further down the block.
Gentile claims cart workers sell unrefrigerated lettuce, unload raw meat in a plastic bags onto the sidewalk, and leave greasy drippings leaking onto the pavement, which the Bay Ridge Courier also documented during a visit there last Monday.
Gentile says he captured the abuses on his iPad while staking out the Middle Eastern food cart on Easter weekend, after his calls to the city went unheeded. The city requires food carts to store all ingredients in refrigerated on-board compartments, and food servers to collect and store all liquid runoff for proper disposal.
A city spokesperson said health inspectors had already fined the cart for workers not wearing hair restraints, and for operating too closely to the sidewalk, but Gentile claimed the vendor is still flouting the law by being on the short end of the legally-required 10-foot berth of the zebra stripes on Fifth Avenue, and for failing to keep 25 feet away from the entrance of the Citibank on the corner.
Sammy Kassen, who is managing the cart while Asus is visiting Jerusalem, denied the allegations.
“This is a very good business, why would we ruin it by doing anything illegal?” he said.
Gentile said he didn’t want to put the vendor out of business. He just wants it to move away.