Bay Ridge food cart gets Vendy award

Embattled Fifth Avenue gyro seller to get prize for bravery

The Brooklyn Paper
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Sammy Kassen is a halal-cart hero, according to a group of street vendor advocates who want to give the rolling restaurateur a special Vendy award for battling rogue benches and pugnacious bar owners in order to keep his Middle Eastern Halal Cart on Fifth Avenue.

Members of the Street Vendor Project — a group that offers aid to sidewalk merchants — say they will present Kassen with their “Most Heroic Vendor” award during a special ceremony on September 15.

Project officials said they were impressed with how Kassen stood his ground and continued selling gyros near 86th Street in spite of numerous obstacles — including a pair of benches that mysteriously appeared in his spot in March, and an April sit-in demonstration by nearby business owners who felt the food wagon was hurting their bottom lines.

“Kassen and his staff has been standing up for their rights in this location, despite conflicts with the anti-cart, brick-and-mortar businesses in the area,” said Matt Shapiro, an attorney for the Street Vendor Project.

Kassen was humbled by the news.

“We work hard, we do our jobs, we support our families, and we defend our rights,” he said. “I hope this helps raise awareness in my community that all Americans have the right to make an honest living.”

Yet the Street Vendor Project may be honoring an illegal food cart vendor: Sean Basinski, another Street Vendor Project attorney, told this paper in June that Kassen rented his permit to sell food on the street from the actual license holder — which is illegal, although he dismissed the infraction as a minor violation.

“Jaywalking’s a crime, but it’s an open secret that people jaywalk, and it’s an open secret that people rent permits,” the lawyer said, estimating that 60 percent of all street food sellers rent their licenses to grill.

Kassen denied renting the permit, claiming that he rents the cart which has the permit attached to it — something he says is perfectly legal.

Fifth Avenue business owners who have been trying to boot Kassen from Fifth Avenue were unimpressed with the food vendor’s honor.

“It’s a shame when the city allows one criminal enterprise to praise another criminal enterprise for ‘courageous activities’ that are totally illegal,” said Tony Gentile, owner of the Lone Star Bar and leader of the “Save Our Streets” campaign, who said that he and other business owners are suing the city for failing to enforce its street vendor laws.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at Follow him on Twitter at
Updated 5:35 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jonny Hammer Sticks from Bay Ridge says:
This guy sucks, and his food sucks. Why didn't he get an award for urinating In the same van that he stores his food in?
Aug. 22, 2012, 8:59 am
Osito from Bay Ridge says:
His food is great, and he's a neighborhood institution. Congratulations to the food cart!

And, please, shut down that next-door bar. They are the source of the complaints. We need a legitimate business in that space.
Aug. 22, 2012, 10:59 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
That Sammy looks too angry...I'm not interested in trying his food. He should think about taking some high blood pressure medication or maybe anti-depressants.
Aug. 22, 2012, 11:06 am
John from Bay Ridge says:
I read that he was using his permit illegally. Was that included in the award criteria?
Aug. 22, 2012, 11:10 am
Vendor Association says:
Sorry, our bad - the award was for worst smelling cart and bad hygiene. There was also a runner-up mention for doing the most to create bad will between yourself and the public.
Congratulations Mr. K!
Aug. 22, 2012, 11:21 am
Brian from Sheepshead Bay says:
Congrats Sammy. Kudos for taking the high road. It's often the most difficult path to travel.
Aug. 22, 2012, 12:03 pm
John from Bay Ridge says:
I love the "logic" of this quote:

Yet the Street Vendor Project may be honoring an illegal food cart vendor: Sean Basinski, another Street Vendor Project attorney, told this paper in June that Kassen rented his permit to sell food on the street from the actual license holder — which is illegal, although he dismissed the infraction as a minor violation.

“Jaywalking’s a crime, but it’s an open secret that people jaywalk, and it’s an open secret that people rent permits,” the lawyer said, estimating that 60 percent of all street food sellers rent their licenses to grill.

Hey, by this "logic" anything can be excused. No driver's license, no problem; just "rent" one from a license holder. No liquor license? No problem, just rent one and open a bar tomorrow.

According to Basinski, we don't need any rules anymore. What nonsense.
Aug. 22, 2012, 1:06 pm
Bill from Bay Ridge says:
It is so embarrassing reading these ridiculous comments from the knuckle-draggers who are trying to move this cart! They won't clean up their bars and think they can drive off a competitor whose food people actually like with genius comments like this!
Just as Bay Ridge as Marty Golden! Totally embarrassing!
Aug. 22, 2012, 1:22 pm
Pat from Bay Ridge says:

I agree with Bill 100%. Never been to that bar but it must be a real vile dump if they can't withstand the competition from a halal food cart. Or they're just racist bullies which is even worse. These guys work hard and serve good food, get over it.
Aug. 22, 2012, 1:51 pm
Pat from bay ridge says:
I still trying to figure out where these halal carts come from and what we need halal food for?What is the attraction. Why isn't it repulsion? And why after 9/11 and attacks before and after some of which had their roots with terror cells in brooklyn,like the one eyed sheik and Wesam el hanafi, would we want to buy halal anything?You people are morons
Aug. 22, 2012, 3:48 pm
Rufus Leaking from Aroud says:
That's not an award - that's a reach around.

Whadda Heeero!
Aug. 22, 2012, 3:58 pm
Ahab from Bay Rij says:
The Fifth Ave carts are a perfect remedy when you are hungry and just recovered from the food poisoning you got at Hinch's.
Aug. 22, 2012, 3:59 pm
Brenda from Dyker says:
What's most annoying is people who are not long time residents of the neighborhood making comments about "knuckle-draggers." Perhaps some of us find these carts to be out of place and adding a dirty element, making the streets more cluttered, that is overall unwanted. It wasn't neighborhood residents that gave him this 'award' either, instead it was vendor lobbyists! The bars have been here a long time and are contained and heavily regulated. Maybe we in the area are tired of people coming from other places trying to re-make Bay Ridge into something different. If you have complaints, there are other areas of Brooklyn you can go to which have been gentrified to the point of unrecognizability!
Aug. 22, 2012, 4:11 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off all, I thank Sammy for his award, because he deserved it after what he had to go through. To those that attack him and other vendors, shame on you. These people are trying to make a living, and this is the most they can get on their income. Try taking a walk in their shoes, and you will understand why they are doing this. If he could get a better a job, he would have done that already. While it's true that the businesses there may either own or rent their property, that's only with the places they are in, but not with the sidewalks, which happen to be public property. Also, he has a permit to be there, which he also pays for. Still, if you don't like buying from vendors, then just simply don't, because nobody is making you do so. Honestly, I don't see how he is hurting any businesses just by offering food that most of the others don't seem to have. If you asked me, running a food cart is like being your own cowboy where you get to be your own boss.
Aug. 22, 2012, 6:18 pm
97th Street from Bay Ridge says:
The bigoted yahoos doing blow in the bathrooms at Lone Star are the ones who need to be arrested. The owners at Lone Star who illegally installed the bench and allow drug dealing in their establishment are the ones who need to be arrested.

Bay Ridge wants the halal cart. They don't want Lone Star. Let's add a legitimate, nonbigoted business, with people who have evolved beyond caveman status.
Aug. 22, 2012, 6:49 pm
ty from pps says:
"First off all, I thank Sammy for his award..."
Aug. 22, 2012, 7:31 pm
Pete from Park Slope says:

Clever tactic badmouthing the Lone Star.'I've never been there,but I know they pay a lot more taxes and fees than
This guy gets to set up his huge food cart for nothing on
our streets. So, he and his badmouthing pals should be a little more humble.
Sammy?-is that your real name?Just wondering...
Aug. 22, 2012, 8:01 pm
Pete from Park Slope says:

Wait, he doesn't pay nothing-he or the real owner of the license pays what?-300.a year.
Wonder where he dumps the chamber pot?
Aug. 22, 2012, 8:03 pm
Bill from dyker heights says:
I enjoy their food, my friends and are agree that this is the best Halal food truck that we've eaten. Even better than the famous ones in the city. Just keep up the quality of food and you guys will succeed.
Aug. 23, 2012, 8:16 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, his real name is Sammy unlike the person who may not even be named Pete. Seriously, I don't see why he is a problem to the neighborhood when it seems that only bad merchants seem to hate him. If anyone has violated any laws here, it's that owner of Lone Star, and he goes on record for numerous. BTW, he and his friends had no right to place a bench there especially since the sidewalk is considered public property. So once again, who is the real lawbreaker here?
Aug. 23, 2012, 4:49 pm
Beverly from Dyker Heights says:
Let's be frank - his food is unhealthy, unsightly and possibly unsanitary. He also brazenly and knowingly breaks the law. He only recieved an award because people are desperate to find an arab who they could put forward to seem multicultural and PC. Is he the best of his community? A law breaker who has caused unrest and strife in this neighborhood for the sake of selling fast food? Pretty sad State of affairs....
Aug. 24, 2012, 10:56 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Tal, is that really you? If so, you could knock me over with a feather right now.
Aug. 24, 2012, 12:35 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Just a reminder for those attacking this poor vendor, the merchants don't want him out of there because his food is unhealthy, they want him out because they just don't want him there period.
Aug. 24, 2012, 7:05 pm
Hagit Barzilai from Pleasantville says:
Tal - come up out of the basement NOW!
Aug. 24, 2012, 8:46 pm
Alice from Bay Ridge says:
Mr. Barzilai - whether or not that is their inspiration, his food is still unhealthy and he has no license to sell it. This may not have been the Best way to bring these facts to light, but they are still true.
Aug. 25, 2012, 5:54 am
Jim from Brooklyn Heights says:
I think Alice has really hit the nail on it's head - no matter how it was uncovered, this man is In violation of the law for the sake of fatty foods??
Sorry, but he ought to be fined and shut down.
Aug. 25, 2012, 9:05 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Is Alice a licensed nutritionist? (like the two fat ladies who run the bar are disciples of Gary Noll). If you do not like the food chiquita do not eat it.

Can the bois from the bar show us their books and swear under oath everyone is on the books and legal (ie green cards)including the rummie who cleans the place. OLA and OLPH will make a sharp looking mosque someday. Mazel tov
Aug. 25, 2012, 10:42 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Alice, do you have any evidence that his food is unhealthy? Have you even eaten anything from him in the past? If you haven't, then you have no clue whether or not his food is healthy. Still, nobody is forcing you to eat his food if you choose not to, but that doesn't give you a right to attack him or make others not eat there just because you don't want to. If Sammy was listening right now, he could probably call you for slander on that right now, so you better give proof on that. On a side note, I cannot believe those who use alter egos to attack me, especially those like Scott or even ty in that matter, and if you claim you didn't do it, you better give me your alibis for that time, or I will believe it was you.
Aug. 25, 2012, 4:35 pm
Hagit Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:

Clean your room! Stop bothering those people on the internet!
Aug. 25, 2012, 5:12 pm
Alice from Bay Ridge says:
Mr. B - what "evidence" do you want?

I have never eaten his food - nor will I ever. Just as I have never eaten McDonalds. I know neither is good for me, and proof is almost superfluous. I'm sure that anyone Can plainly see the same.
Aug. 25, 2012, 7:14 pm
old time brookly from slope says:
alice - so you are talking through your hat - no info, no sats - just another white girl on the losing end (you will be wearing a veil and not on sister our lady of tarter sauce didnt require)- mazel tov petzela - ill bet you can see your toes too but girls are supposed to be a tad more healthy on top.
Aug. 25, 2012, 7:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Alice, if you have never eaten his food, then how do you know that it's unhealthy? Wouldn't eating it for real answer that question? Even if you don't like it, that doesn't mean that others shouldn't. There are plenty of foods that I don't like to eat, but you don't hear me stopping anyone from having them. What do you have against this guy? Did he decide to break up with you, and you are just saying this all in response? The point whether or not you like his food, he does have a right to be there whether you like it or not. Just don't buy anything from him, because nobody is making you do so.
Aug. 25, 2012, 7:31 pm
Dean from Bridge Area says:
Mary takes up 2 subway seats; for the price of one.
Aug. 26, 2012, 12:39 am
Alice from Bay Ridge says:
Old time - I don't really understand what you want. Do you genuinely believe he sells healthy food? I think you are just speciously attacking me.
A veil would hide my beautiful, natural blonde hair, so no thanks to your offer/threat/suggestion/random declaration.

If your issue with me is racial - I feel sorry for you.

@Tal -
I have nothing against this man. He may or may not be a fine person. I do not like any business that is not correctly permitted (as this cart is not). I also would prefer if all unhealthy food shops shut. To answer your question we have never dated.
He has no right to operate an un-licensed cart actually.
Aug. 26, 2012, 5:07 am
Frank from Bay Ridge says:
He's a nice guy, the food is very good food -- and speaking as an oldtimer: Brenda, you've gotta be kidding if you think the cart wrecks the look of that block. The block looked "OTB" for years and looks OTB even without OTB, lol.
Aug. 26, 2012, 4:28 pm
Frank from Bay Ridge says:
Oh - and stop with the 'unhealthy' charade, people. If you were THAT incensed about unhealthiness you'd want to stifle KFC, greasy-pizza and donut joints, burger chains, bars etcetera, no matter how much rent they paid. If you unfairly target Mideast style food you'll have to slam a lot of rentpaying restaurants, including the Greek place (Plaka) at 86 and 4th.
Aug. 26, 2012, 4:47 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Alice, it's one thing to say that you won't eat any of the food he gives, but it's another to say that it's unhealthy especially if you have yet to prove that. Also, prove that he is not licensed, because if he has a right to be there, he has to have a license otherwise he couldn't just like all other food vendors that do. BTW, you do know that trans fats were banned a several years, so they haven't even been used in cooking, though I still think that many of the dangers of them were exaggerated. As for fast foods, they no longer leave foods standing for a while until someone orders them, they now make them just after you order them so that they will be fresh for you, though some like KFC heats them up, and the same is for pizzerias with their pizza. I have to agree with what Frank said, because as an Israeli-born Jew, I do feel sort of offended on what some say about Mid East food, which I tend to eat from time to time, because I am from there. However, I will tell you that some foods you need to develop a taste for it, because some of them take some time to getting used to, which is how I got that taste. I can even take you to NYC's little Israel over in the Kew Garden Hills section of Queens or even to a bunch of Israeli shops down in Midwood, though there are some Turkish places to throughout the city.
Aug. 26, 2012, 6:02 pm
Pete R. from 3rd Ave. says:
Why are people saying the food is unhealthy? First, it's false (grilled chicken, vegetables, and pita are unhealthy??), and second, it's irrelevent.

The fact is that the halal cart is wildly popular, becuase the food tastes great, and is healthy and affordable. It doesn't hurt that the workers are good guys.
Aug. 27, 2012, 5:25 pm
4th generation American from NYC says:
A lot of these comments bother me, but I only care to comment on one. Alice, do you realize your comments on shutting down unhealthy food establishments is the most Anti-American thing in this thread? You believe that freedom of choice- the very thing that makes this country so beautiful- should be sacrificed because the food is unhealthy? Regardless of whether healthy or not, people who want to eat that food have every right to do so, and people wanting to sell that food have every right to do so. This is America, and you have the freedom to choose. Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it has to be against the law to sell it. Why don't we outlaw everything else you may not like? Isn't this the exact thing that our ancestors who immigrated to this country, escaped from? We Americans are a free people, and if you think we need to be told what we can and cannot eat, I recommend packing your bags now...
Aug. 22, 2013, 12:49 pm
4th generation American from NYC says:
... And FYI I do not believe that this food is that unhealthy. First off- Halal food cannot have many of the preservatives and other chemicals in the rest of the foods we consume on a regular basis. Second of all I guess it depends what you're comparing it to. Fun fact- Taco Bell's "beef" is actually less than 40% meat, and the rest is unknown. Google this if you don't believe it. It is so unhealthy, that the city of Montreal will not allow Taco Bell to open its doors for business in city limits. So if you want to compare it to this, the food carts may as well be a Muscle Maker Grill.
Aug. 22, 2013, 12:54 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Stop ——ing and moaning about the falafel cart you whiny ——es. Did you kick up such a fuss when the dude on 86st and 5th ave was shelling pretzels out of a shopping cart with hot coals on the bottom, or how about those flithy water dog that I wouldn't feed to my dog, you prefer that mess? Obviously, because they are not arabic or muslim or whatever tickles your hate bone.

Oh no! Street food! thats the end of the neighborhood LOL... you get out much? Because NYC has street food all over it, its legal and your a bunch of sour racist who don't know —— about tasty falafel or where your hate originates from. You got pizza wagon right across the street. I don't see them hurting for business, so kindly STFU

You're a long time resident? So am I dingleberry, If you are a new yorke
April 1, 2017, 2:20 am

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