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Community board wants food vendors at 40th Street gone

In danger

Community Board 2 wants food vendors at 40th Street gone

March 22, By Christian Murray

Sheref Abdelshafy, who has operated his food cart under the 40th Street No. 7 train station for 10 years, is a worried man.  He is in danger of being removed.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley wants that area cleared of food vendors, just like what occurred under the 46th Street station in December.  Conley has said that many people have concerns about the cleanliness of the food carts and support the board’s “zero tolerance policy” of all street vendors.

But Abelshafy said it’s unfair that the board wants him gone.

“I’ve been here 10 years selling bagels and coffee and I have never had any problems with anyone,” Abdelshafty said. “I don’t have anything else [another occupation].”

Conley spoke to a representative of the Department of Transportation at a community board meeting on Tuesday, telling him that the neighborhood needs help in getting rid of the vendors. He complained that the vendors were in the middle of the 40th Street art installation.

“We have sent a letter with pictures to the DOT that asks them to work with the police department, so they can get the food carts out of there,” Conley said during the meeting. That letter was sent on March 5.

Abdelshafy, who starts work at about 4 am and leaves at 11 am, said the police have not spoken to him yet.  He said he wasn’t sure whether the owner of the Halal cart who arrives each day at 11am had been spoken to either.

Adbelshafy was visibility shaken when he heard that the letter had been sent.

“I have kids, I have bills,” he said. “My rent is $1,500 a month. I will be out on the street.”

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Sheref Abdelshafy serving a customer

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72 Responses »

  1. **********Although it has tremendous potential, Sunnyside feels stagnant and dated compared to neighboring LIC or Astoria.

    Street vendors are found everywhere in the city and if they comply with required permits and safety regulations, I fail to see the reasoning behind removing them from Sunnyside.**********

    exactly, this sad bougie mentality that is indeed a bunch of an old stick in the mud people who want Sunnyside to be stuck in what it was 30 years ago…

    it just seems crazy that Sunnyside should be the only neighborhood in NYC with no food carts, esp since there is such a large population of working class people here who need them…

  2. @ Yawn Bruce Lee died very young, thus he had no real wisdom, only soundbites that sound great to the young. Should you live long enough, your callow words will come back to haunt you.

  3. @Messer Your argument is the best here.

    The community board has ben led by Joe Conley for as long as anyone can remember. It is his full-time job, so either he is independently wealthy or someone is paying him for a no-show job so he can smooth the way for the real estate interests. Take a guess which one is true. Your guess is as good as mine.

    Since food-cart vendors can’t cough up the dough he needs to keep his expensive suits cleaned and pressed, he’s waging a war against them.

    No matter how many people read this blog and vote, he’ll get rid of them. He’s a small time pol playing hardball with poor people. Makes him feel like a great big guy.

  4. If you think food carts are dirty, then don’t go to them! Otherwise, let the rest of us who choose to frequent them use them in peace!!

  5. I have lived in Sunnyside for almost 10 years and the 40th Street station is my stop on the 7. This guy only showed up out of nowhere a few years ago. So, no, he has not been there for 10 years.

    I am shocked that he is not required to pay rent when he sits all day in the same spot, right on public property. There should be fees related to his use of the public commons for commercial gain. Otherwise, it’s just not fair. And I’m not talking about “permits” either. The area where this cart is was dirty before he arrived and it’s only gotten worse. If we are going to have food carts, then the owners need to be participating in the maintenance of the area where they are making money.

  6. Lucky, you’re the voice of reason. I couldn’t agree with you more…

  7. Why can’t anyone else open up food carts there? Does he own that space? Either let everyone set up shop there, or no one. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

  8. 1st of all he has not been at 40th Street Station for 10 years – its more like 2 years he just rolled in 1 day – what bothers me is you have the Sunnyside Post directly across the street paying RENT, gas & electric for their coffee shop. Also is Pete’s Grill and Oasis all selling coffee in the morning so why should he be getting the space for free? I KNOW he pays for a vdors license but move it away from established sites selling the same stuff. I know in the afternoon he sells his falafel etc but enough!
    Also not the cleanest of sites

  9. @me – Food vendors are allowed in NYC – its the law. There’s nothing in the law that would require a vendor to sell differnt goods from the stores nearby. Can you even imagine the practical implications of requiring a business not to compete with nearby ones? If Pete’s and Oasis sells coffee, aren’t they competing? Should be stop Oasis from selling as they take business from Pete’s, as Pete’s was there first?

    Regardless of when this vendor arrived, he runs a Sunnyside business as well. Everyone seems to forget that a business isn’t just a brick and mortar store.

    Part of the advantages he gets from not paying rent (although he does pay rent to store his cart at night, and fees to use a commercial kitchen, and vendor license fees, and transportation costs), he loses from the transient nature of the cart. Its hard to build a loyal following from people who see him a “that cart under the 40th stop”. The Post can grow their business by making a better business that draws customers. Maybe a loyalty card program (4 cups and the 5th is free), maybe ads, maybe a street window to make it faster. Also, there will always be people like you that find the cart to dirty, and would prefer to get their food somewhere else.

    Quite simply, it is not the job of the politicians to legislate away competition. The vendor parks there to make good use of the train traffic. That’s his advantage in business. Other businesses need to find theirs.

  10. I love the coffee carts in Manhattan! Conley is a tool of the real estate developers. Time for him to go.

  11. I noticed the dopey sexist comment that Pathetic Sheep made about Eva Moskowitz. BTW Mr. Pathetic: you are a …!

  12. Please get rid of the food trucks on 46th street and Greenpoibt Avenue in front of an apartment building. They stay there until 4/5am attracting drunk people from the horrible bar down the street. People fight, scream, make commotions and nothing is done about it.

    Both trucks used to park in different spots near stores NOT residential buildings. PLEASE DO SOMETHING. 311 doesn’t help, precinct doesn’t help, politicisns don’t help.

  13. The vast majority of our residents have no problem with the food carts. To use the excuse that it’s in the middle of that “art” installation is a freaking insult. Here’s a man working his butt off providing a service a lot of people use every day, and some community council interested in gentrifying our neighborhood has a problem with it? Let me tell you about that “art installation”, it is the sorriest excuse for art I have ever seen. They look like bike racks or exercise equipment.

    Talk about looking for problems where there aren’t any…

  14. @Messer, thanks for your comments, I agree with them. The segmentation of business is a good thing for a community- food carts serve different needs than brick and mortar businesses. Leave the carts alone. Sometimes you need a quick coffee, sometimes you want a mass produced donut. The times when you want something with higher quality, you go to a different business. There are regulations that food vendors must meet to avoid citations, (they’re sort of ridiculous, but they exist,) if the vendors meet them, then leave them alone. Don’t use the regulations as merely a mode of harassment to serve other people’s business interests.

  15. Who actually wants these vendors give l gone besides Mr. Conley? This sounds suspicious, and I question his motives…

  16. What about that excellent Greek fellow serving up shishkebobs?
    Looks clean. Yummy.

  17. @Sue@Messer…Absolutely right. Food carts have been part of NYC as far back as 1692! They, for the most part, offer inexpensive on-the-go food for folks. How is this particular cart bothering anyone?? Its placement under the el is logical; it does not block traffic nor does it impede passage from one side of the block to the other. They are legal and unless they are a public health threat (i.e., unsanitary conditions), should be allowed to remain. And the complaints about not paying rent/electricity, etc., they do pay fees as Messer pointed out. It’s a different business model than that of a brick and mortar store, but nonetheless entails the same hard work and effort to turn a profit, especially by selling $1.00 bagels and coffee.

    Instead of an “off with their heads” mentality, perhaps Mr. Conley should advocate stricter regulations of the carts under the 7 train, including uniform size, signage and rules for when they can operate. The parks department does that in central park and they are able to charge extra fees to the vendors, especially to those with premium spots (@ the Central Park Zoo). Street carts are a part of life in the city and shouldn’t be forced out of our little corner of it.

  18. Fact: this guy has been there for 10 years. Also fact, his coffee is drinkable and the convenience he offers to commuters is great and why you see these carts all over the city. I don’t understand why his business is less legitimate simply because it’s mobile.

    Also, Pete’s and Oasis coffee is more like watered down brown liquid with little resemblance to coffee. I’m sick of the hipsterfication of the neighborhood. Please if you have to have artisanal coffee every day and don’t like working class people and working class businesses stay out of this neighborhood.

  19. Hmm I think the argument that food trucks are taking business away from brick and mortar stores is a little off base. Manhattan and Brooklyn have tons of food trucks, and they also have many thriving restaurants. Competition is just a truth of capitalism. If the guy across the street is concerned about losing business due to this truck, perhaps he should do something else to lure customers: local advertising, redo your window displays, offer a bagel special in the morning or just make better bagels, perhaps? Competition is something every entrepreneur/business person has to deal with.

    In a world where people are struggling pay check to pay check just to pay their bills, it seems wrong that this guy should be shut down because of an “art installation.” It’s stated that cleanliness is a concern, but has anyone ever reported getting sick after eating from this food truck?

    If Sunnyside is concerned with the appearance and reputation of the neighborhood, perhaps they should pick up the insane amount of trash on the sidewalks or force some of the other local businesses to fix the holes/rips in their signs. Let’s not even talk about the fact that the 52nd street station (I know, it’s Woodside) is covered in bird crap, and that the nearby park was taken over by rats until a mayoral candidate went on TV exposing it.

    Just hoping my favorite taco truck isn’t next on the ax list – it’s the only decent place open late at night!

  20. This is shameful. I’ve never seen anyone touch the “art installations” — which everyone knew were going to be useless. But every day hundreds of people buy from these vendors. They’re clean, friendly, and convenient. Joe Conley clearly does not speak for the people of Sunnyside, who overwhelmingly prefer the vendors. I would ask where Joe Conley is receiving his motivation — since it isn’t the will of the people, could there be something going on between Conley and local store owners?

  21. A woman on my block sells baked goods in front of her house every summer. Why aren’t tehy stopping her?

  22. they dont bother me, and their food smells good! why would i interfere with their right to make a living? its not like they have a competitor in the area.

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