War for Fifth Avenue

Halal cart customers are fans of free seating

The Brooklyn Paper
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The pair of controversial benches illegally bolted onto Fifth Avenue to displace a gyro cart have become welcome lunchtime seating, say food vendor customers who want to relax while they eat their chicken on rice and falafels.

Customers claim the benches that were installed under the cover of darkness and forced workers for the so-named Middle Eastern Halal Cart to move further down the block is making the gyro seller more popular — and is drawing customers away from its main competitor, the Halal Express food cart parked on the other side of 86th Street.

“They both sell the same thing, but I know there’s seating here, so I come here,” said Michael Rodriguez, as he demolished a platter of food on one of the benches.

His friend Kyle Stefano agreed that the seats have made the Middle Eastern Halal Cart more appealing than its rival.

“Instead of having to stand over there, we can sit here,” he said.

Ahmad Ibrahim, another regular, said the benches were a business booster for the gyro cart.

“I think it helps them,” he added. “You always see the people sitting here eating the food.”

Yet this turnaround remains an unsavory deal for cart manager Sammy Kassen, who still wants the street seats removed.

“Leaving them just shows anybody can do whatever they want,” said Kassen, skimming over the bench’s apparent economic advantages. “They’re good for business, but they shouldn’t be here.”

And there’s another downside: a visit to Fifth Avenue and 86th Street last week proved that the benches weren’t only being used by Kassen’s customers — but a handful of homeless people were also found relaxing on the benches.

Brick-and-mortar restaurants pay nearly $3,000 in city fees for al fresco dining. Kassen got his for free — and the group that is responsible for street furniture in the area isn’t going to do a thing about it.

“We’re not talking about benches anymore,” said Pat Condren, whose group refused an offer by Bay Ridge drug store owner Habib Joudeh to pay for the removal. “We’re moving on.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at Follow him on Twitter at
Updated 5:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Shirley from BR says:
Good lesson to learn: if you want more business, put benches out and reclaim space on the street for pedestrians, not drivers!
June 6, 2012, 9:33 am
ty from pps says:
"Brick-and-mortar restaurants pay nearly $3,000 in city fees for al fresco dining. Kassen got his for free"

That's a STUPID statement. ANY establishment that has take-out food has "free al fresco dining." So dumb. Does my pizza shop pay $3000 extra because I take my slice and eat it on a bench outside?

I appreciate the fact that this paper wants to support the douchebag Bay Ridge neanderthals and their crappy bar, but come on. Try a little harder. Ran out of ways to put a positive spin on the drunk people pouring onto the streets looking for a snack? It's the food cart that causes the litter and disorderly conduct, right?
June 6, 2012, 11:05 am
ch from bh says:
It's like Bay Ridge is still in the 1950s.

And the bad part of the 1950s, at that.
June 6, 2012, 3:33 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If you think that halal cart vendor was a blight to the neighborhood, just wait until those benches will have homeless people sleeping on them.
June 6, 2012, 3:39 pm
Hugo Furst from Bay Ridge says:
Now, all it needs is a roof, and a bathroom with a sink, a ventilation system, electricity and refrigeration.
June 6, 2012, 4:20 pm
Bethany from Bay Ridge says:
Could all sides take a step back and see that the argument is about benches? Not a world-rocking issue ( to me at least )

Odd that Mr. Barziali lives In a place called 'Pleasantville' , when his comments are so distinctly unpleasant and unneccessarily aggressive. Is Pleasantville an actual location, or just a State of mind?
June 7, 2012, 6:13 am
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
Bethany - when I take a step back, I see that it's not just 'about benches.' It's about a mystery crew's attempt to block the vendor by bolting four large objects to the sidewalk ... whose removal the CB now won't even allow, though the benches are illegal and a guy offered to pay the tab for removal.

It might actually be about supernatural visitations or a Bench Fairy, since those metal benches were unbolted from elsewhere, moved, and rebolted onto concrete in predawn hours -- yet no one knows who did it and our vigilant BID and CB are totally clueless (lol).
June 7, 2012, 8:09 am
ty from pps says:
Bethany -- Tal Barzilai lives in Pleasantville, NY on a golf course.... and can count how many times he's been to Brooklyn.
June 7, 2012, 9:16 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Mark one for the Law of Unintended Consequences. So glad to hear that the racists of Bay Ridge have been bit in the ass by their racist acts. Yes, please, continue to provide more seating for the carts. I hope it puts you all out of business and compels you to move to the Jersey Shore.
June 7, 2012, 11:47 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Bethany, place Pleasantville, NY into Google Maps and tell me if it exists after that. To answer, ty, I live near the golf course, but I am not a member of it at all, so your so-called claim is debunked there. Anyway, I still feel that this vendor was unfairly picked on. The biggest irony is that those that are complaining have a lot of violations of their own. When as that bar owner going to turn down the music that many are complaining about. The halal cart vendor is nothing more than a scapegoat for businesses who are unable to compete, so they feel that their only solution is to shut them down.
June 7, 2012, 4:42 pm
Jack Nyquist from Bay Ridge says:
Truly, the food cart has wheels, can't it just park elsewhere? I don't believe it owns any particular location. That is the advantage of renting a shop, it yours. The advantage of wheels is mobility.
Personally I Think the cart is a filthy eye sore, but if people are willing to give it money, what Can you do?

I also have to say I agree with Bethany - perhaps Tal can save his unsavory opinions for the people of un-Pleasantville.
June 9, 2012, 1:10 pm
Jack Nyquist from Bay Ridge says:
@Scott from Park Slope -
Your comment is fairly arrogant, aggressive and unsubstantiated. Assuming that people are racists or Jersey trash because they live In Bay Ridge is like saying park slopers are all green-tea drinking lesbian mothers with unattractive shoes from the midwest. Surely only 70% of you live up to that stereotype. Please keep your arrogance, entitlement and oddly placed judgement to the confines of your lilly-white college-campus-for-adults neighborhood.
June 9, 2012, 1:18 pm
John C from Bay Ridge says:
Hey Jack why is it a "filthy" eyesore? It looks just as clean as most other mobile vendors do and cleaner than a lot of the vendors who are allowed into local festivals. And please don't tell us that it detracts from that block's classy looks. :D
June 10, 2012, 8:55 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Disregarding some of the personal attacks aimed at me, I never found anything wrong with these carts. If someone wants something fast on the run or cheap. Sometimes, when I find it too late for lunch, I will take something from them. Still, they have a right to a spot, and they should be given another if they lose it. Also, the 5th amendment of the US Constitution does give them a right to just compensation on that as well. Overall, if you really support the merchants so much, then be a regular customer at their places otherwise stop saying such words.
June 10, 2012, 12:50 pm
bernard from bayridge says:
i want to know what btime is the festival
Aug. 24, 2012, 12:39 pm
bernard from bayridge says:
i want to know what btime is the festival
Aug. 24, 2012, 12:39 pm

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