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Halal and Hot Dog Vendor Beef Leads to Fistfight in City Hall Park

By Jill Colvin | June 6, 2012 4:40pm | Updated on June 6, 2012 5:23pm
Hristos Serertas accused competing vendors of running a
Hristos Serertas accused competing vendors of running a "Halal Mafia."
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

CITY HALL — One man was left bloodied and another taken away in cuffs after a violent lunchtime battle erupted between a group of halal and hot dog vendors in City Hall Park Wednesday afternoon, according to witnesses and police.

Elderly halal vendor Jacques Sterlin, 66, was led away in handcuffs by NYPD officers just before 1 p.m. Wednesday for allegedly beating a hot dog vendor with a walking cane, police and witnesses said. Sterlin has been charged with assault, police said.

The victim, whose face and windbreaker jacket were covered in blood, declined to comment and refused to give his name to a reporter after the incident.

The sparks began to fly shortly after noon, when unlicensed hot dog vendor Hristos Serertas, who oversees a team of workers, including the victim, behind a mobile frankfurter cart, pulled into City Hall Plaza and began undercutting competitors by hawking water bottles, sausages and hot dogs for $1 — much lower than the going rate.

The battle broke out between this hot dog cart and nearby vendors.
The battle broke out between this hot dog cart and nearby vendors.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

“$1! $1 here! Everything!” yelled Serertas, who admitted to DNAinfo.com New York that he did not have a license to sell in the park, but deserved to be there anyway.

“These guys are criminals! I was here before they were born!” he added, waving fists full of dollar bills in both hands.

Serertas' arrival infuriated competitors in the plaza, including Sterlin and another halal vendor, Carlos Rodriguez, 56, a disabled Vietnam War veteran who runs the Miriam Halal cart and has special permission to sell in the park because of his status, Parks Department reps said.

“This is my spot!” yelled Rodriguez, as he displayed his yellow permit. “Who has the right? Me!”

Tensions escalated when Serertas began to challenge Rodriguez, saying he was using his military service to force vendors to pay him for the right to sell in City Hall Park.

“They're the halal mafia,” Serertas said.

The pair engaged in a nearly half-hour screaming match in the middle of the plaza, shocking crowds of tourists passing by.

Fellow vendors said the disputes are nothing new.

“We have a problem here, these guys coming in a small hot dog cart… It kills business,” said one Halal vendor, who declined to give his name.

After the arrest, Parks Enforcement officers kicked Serertas and his cart out of the park and slapped him with a fine for vending without the proposer license, officials said.

Rodriguez and his Halal cart were allowed to stay.

The bleeding man was rushed by ambulance to New York Hospital Downtown where he was treated for a head injury, an FDNY spokesman said. His identity was not released.