Relationships between halal food vendors and an association of Bay Ridge merchants continue to deteriorate. Tony Gentile is the owner of Lone Star Bar & Grill, which is, by the way, according to its website, Brooklyn’s “only country and western bar.” Last month, Gentile formed a coalition of Fifth Avenue business owners allied by an increasing unhappiness with the vendors, citing a loss of revenue and general proliferation of shawarma litter. In April and early May, the so-called “Save Our Streets” members woke early each morning to occupy the curbside spaces where the vendors usually set up. “Food vendors are destroying our neighborhood,” Gentile told CBS. Instead of selling food, the Bay Ridge Courier reported, the coalition sold cookbooks and distributed “literature about how food carts destroy neighborhood businesses.”
At one point during the standoff, a fight even broke out between a falafel vendor and the merchants. The Save Our Streets group continued its occupation a few more days before relinquishing the sidewalk, and the vendors once again moved into their old locations along Fifth Avenue. The city was asked to mediate this issue, with some ominous talk of a “Mayor Giuliani–era Street Vendor Review Panel.”
In the latest development to the story, 21-year-old falafel seller Sammy Kassen and another vendor have announced they’re seeking legal help for the issue, telling the Daily News the confrontations are not just about economic reasons. “His supporters believe the attacks are motivated by a racist resistance to the growing and largely Arab immigrant population in Bay Ridge,” the vendors’ lawyer told the paper.