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Rats and Vermin Plague Sunnyside Food Carts, Residents Complain

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 20, 2012 1:08pm

SUNNYSIDE — A community leader is looking to ban street vendors, including one with super-sized carts, from operating under parts of the 7 train tracks after residents complained they're posing a health hazard by attracting rats and other vermin.

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said he asked the DOT on behalf of the board to install barriers that would prevent food carts and street vendors from conducting their business near the 46th Street, 40th Street and 33rd Street stations.

He also asked the agency to beautify these areas and improve the "pedestrian experience" including adding green space, art work and more lighting, he said.

A DOT spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the department looked at the location and determined that barriers were not appropriate for this area. But Conley is holding out hope for other improvements.

According to Conley, street vendors other than the food carts have been coming to Sunnyside in the afternoon to hawk goods such as DVDs, usually on 46th Street between Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue — on small tables or sheets directly on the street.

“It just looks terrible,” he said.

A few days ago, Conley called police, who made the street vendors leave, he said.

One of the fruit stands located directly under the elevated 46th Street station has become particularly contentious with a vendor who has two big carts that "look like a store," locals say.

“This vendor has many violations,” including using a scale that has no inspection seal, altering the size of the carts to hold more products and operating more than one cart, Conley said.

The vendor, who introduced himself as Mir, said “he has all the necessary permits,” though he admitted that in the past he used to keep some fruit on the ground and was fined for it.

He also said people who complain about him are the owners of local fruit stores, “because they are jealous.”

While some residents didn't mind buying fruit from him Wednesday morning, others expressed concerns.

"The stand takes too much space," said George Delfino, 64, who lives on 46th Street and works in the restaurant business. “I would never buy from the street. They keep these fruits here all the time. They can easily go bad."

Other residents said that a nearby halal cart never leaves, and that grease and food leftovers, which sometimes accumulate around the cart, attract unwanted guests.

According to Department of Health records, in the past the cart has racked up violations for not having hand-washing soap, keeping food outside the cart and not keeping food at the proper temperature.

Patti Zorbas, the owner of Alpha Donuts, a fast food store located across the street, complained about the smell and pigeons that always surround the cart.

And Nick Troya, 39, said that there is usually a mess nearby.

“When you walk there at night, they usually leave a mess,” said the Sunnyside resident, referring to the vendors. “I’ve seen rats and mice there.”

But Tannie Engelhart, who walks dogs for living, said the carts "don't bother her" and she wouldn't mind buying their products.

And another Sunnyside resident, Kamalie, who didn't want to give her last name, said, the fruit looks fresh at the stand on 46th Street.