NYC: A Hero to Street Vendors


For its second annual “Most Heroic Vendor” award, the Vendy Awards, a yearly celebration of the city’s street food vendors, are honoring the proprietor of a Bay Ridge halal food stand who has fought to sell from the sidewalk in the face of opposition from local restaurants that say his stand dirties the street and drives business away.

The proprietor, Sammy Kassem, 21, continues to occupy his usual spot on 86th Street and Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn despite a “Save Our Streets” campaign by nearby eateries to force him and another halal vendor off the sidewalk.

The turf war between the Bay Ridge restaurant owners and the two street vendors has been nasty at times: the owners have occupied Mr. Kassem’s corner with tables and nailed-down park benches, according to a spokeswoman for the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, which sponsors the Vendys, while Mr. Kassem’s lawyer has accused the restaurants of discriminating against the vendors because they are Middle Eastern.

In response to the campaign, Mr. Kassem filed a complaint in May with the police against one of the leaders of the campaign, alleging that he was being harassed.

The Vendys will be handed out on Governors Island on Sept. 15.