May 8, By Christian Murray
Several Sunnyside residents have come to the defense of a street cart vendor who operates below the 40th Street subway station after learning that he was told he could no longer do business there.
Sheref Abdelshafy, who has served coffee and bagels from his cart under the 40th Street train station for well over a decade, said he received a visit from an official from the Department of Health on April 25 and was told food vendors were forbidden from doing business there.
Abdelshafy’s cart was shut down that day, he said. He has since returned, where he has generated support from his customers.
“I’ve been here about 13 years and I have never had any problems with anyone,” Abdelshafy said.
Angelique Mann, a long-time Sunnyside resident, attended Community Board 2’s monthly meeting Thursday and spoke in support of Abdelshafy.
She said Abdelshafy provides a much-needed service, by offering commuters coffee each day starting at 5 am. “We appreciate the services he offers,” she said, adding that he is “a delight to the community.”
She spoke to the board since it has historically taken a tough stance toward the vendors under the 7 train.
Former Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley and the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District worked to get rid of the vendors and got their way at the end of 2013.
Conley said at the time that the venders were located too close to the subway stairwells, putting riders at risk in case they needed to make an emergency exit from the subway platform.
He pointed to the New York City administrative code prohibiting vendors from operating within 10 feet of any subway entrance—and worked with the police and city agencies to ensure it was enforced.
While all the vendors from 46th Street disappeared, Abdelshafy managed to survive at 4oth Street. He was told three years ago that he had to leave but has managed to stay on.
Mann told the community board that many residents want Abdelshafy to stay. Three other people spoke at the meeting on his behalf.
Naomi Berkowitz, a resident, said that the community should support him and it’s people like him who make the neighborhood. “Sunnyside is a place where we should be supporting hard working individuals and small businesses,” she said. “It’s what I love about Sunnyside.”
The Department of Health were not immediately available to comment.