Cart vendor spars with local biz
This island isn’t big enough for the two of them.
A hot dog cart vendor and the visitor’s center kiosk on Roosevelt Island have been jousting in a turf war all summer long over who should be allowed to sell cold drinks by the tramway station to day-tripping tourists.
Now, with a heat wave causing a surge in demand for cold bottles of water, Snapple and soda, the issue has reached a boiling point — and some locals are choosing sides.
Back in June, Mohamed Afifi set up a cart selling hot dogs, falafel and gyros to riders disembarking from the cable cars made famous in movies such as 2002’s “Spider-man.”
But Roosevelt Island Historical Society president Judy Berdy said her organization’s booth, which opened in 2007, has taken a financial hit as a result — and she wants Afifi to move.
“He has parked himself right at our doorway,” Berdy told The Post. “He could not be closer without being inside the visitor’s center property.”
The visitor’s kiosk sells bottled water for $1.50, while the cart sells them for $1.
“Since the tram isn’t air-conditioned and you have to wear a mask, people are very warm,” Berdy said. “Beverages are an item you make a little money on. If you charge $1.50, you make a dollar on that.”
In addition to Island-themed novelties and apparel, the visitor’s kiosk sells soda for $1.50 and specialty drinks such as Snapple and LaCroix for $2.
“They don’t even come in here to see the shop or get a map or any information,” Berdy said. “They walk away and that really has ruined our business and cut down our visitors.”
But Afifi, a native of Cairo, Egypt, said he has every right to make do business on the Island — and he’s got the permit to prove it.
“I sell food really,” Afifi told The Post, noting that the drinks, which also include $2 sodas and Snapple, are just a small part of his menu offerings.
“She sells [drinks only],” added Afifi, whose cart was recently parked about 20 feet from the kiosk’s entrance.
“I don’t know what [Berdy] wants.”
He told The Post that Berdy has confronted him about moving on numerous occasions, despite having a permit from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. (The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation did not return The Post’s request for comment.)
Berdy also accused Afifi of not taking out his garbage frequently enough, but the vendor said he takes out his trash nightly.
She also complained that he doesn’t have a price list, but Afifi said that’s because the cart is also used in Times Square and he sells at lower costs on Roosevelt Island than Midtown.
Roosevelt Island residents that The Post spoke to seemed split on the hot-button issue.
Therese Munfakh, a retired engineer, said Afifi’s cart makes the quaint island, home to about 12,000 residents, feel much more like bustling Manhattan.
“This [vendor] doesn’t represent [the island] the way it should be,” Munfakh said, adding that she’s concerned more carts will arrive.
Another longtime Islander, Joan Brooks, complained the cart was “an eyesore.”
“I understand he’s taking away revenue from the kiosk, which is not right,” said Brooks, who has called Roosevelt Island home since 1977.
But others seemed to be embracing the cart, which was busy during the Monday lunch rush.
James Jimenez and Delin Santos, who have lived on Roosevelt Island for almost five years, said they have no qualms with Afifi setting up shop.
“We noticed him some weeks ago,” said Santos, who added that “it was interesting” to see a regular cart on the island.
“Kids love him,” added Jimenez. “I don’t see a problem with it.”
Berdy said she’s petitioning the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to get the cart moved.
“Why would you hurt a little historical society? He can get a permit and go anywhere. Why do you have to put it right in my face?” she said.
But Afifi said he just wants to be left alone.
“I don’t bother her for nothing…I am legal, that’s it,” he said.