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NYPD Seizes Food Cart After Vendor Questions Police Order to Relocate

By Maya Rajamani | March 24, 2016 7:12am
 Vendor Wagih Hasan, 40, says he will be out of work until he gets back his cart, which was confiscated by NYPD.
Vendor Wagih Hasan, 40, says he will be out of work until he gets back his cart, which was confiscated by NYPD.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

HELL’S KITCHEN — A street vendor who has sold hot dogs and shish kebabs in front of the Javits Center for half a decade says he is out of a job as he waits for police return the cart they confiscated from him earlier this month after a run-in with officers.

Wagih Hasan was selling food from his usual spot at West 36th Street and 11th Avenue on the afternoon of March 12 when NYPD officers told him he had to move across the street, he told DNAinfo New York.

The 40-year-old complied and relocated his cart, but police nonetheless detained him and issued a summons for disorderly conduct after he began asking for their names and badge numbers, he said. The cart also contained $1,500 worth of food, beverages and other items that were taken by police.

“I’m upset. I’m upset,” Hasan, who speaks mainly Arabic, said through translator Basma Eid, an organizer for the Street Vendor Project. “At the very least, they could have given me five minutes to empty out the cart."

Eid and other organizers at SVP, which advocates for the rights of city street vendors, are now trying to help Hasan get his cart back before his summons appearance date May 17.

“If he’s going to be out of work until May, it’s going to be a huge burden for him," Eid said. "There was nothing illegal about his work and now all his stuff was thrown away.”

As Hasan was detained but not actually arrested, Eid claimed that police misclassified his property as “arrest evidence” when it should have been marked as “peddler property.” 

Police usually dole out tickets for Environmental Control Board violations when they have issues with vendors — Hasan says he received eight ECB tickets along with the summons March 12 — but a summons is different, Eid explained.

“At ECB, you can get a fast hearing,” she said. “[With] the criminal case, there’s no way to get a fast hearing.”

The summons police issued to Hasan states he was obstructing pedestrian traffic, which the vendor denies.

Before police detained him March 12, Hasan said he had agreed to move his cart out of his legal spot in front of the Javits Center to another spot across the street, as a police officer had asked him to do.

He called 911 to report the problem, but responding officers told him he could only file a complaint about the situation by calling 311, he said. He asked for the officers' badge numbers and names, as the Street Vendor Project instructs vendors to do when they interact with police.

But as he opened the umbrella over his cart and started setting up, one officer told him he couldn’t continue until her supervisor arrived, he said. When the supervisor showed up, he arrested Hasan, the vendor said.

“He came, and another officer, and he said, ‘You give my guys a hard time. You’re under arrest now,’” Hasan said. “And he took my cart.”

Hasan spent four hours at the 10th Precinct before police issued him eight ECB tickets, a summons and an invoice listing the property the NYPD had confiscated — including 286 juice, water and soda bottles, six bags of chicken franks, six bags of beef franks and 15 bags of knishes, among other items.

Police confirmed Hasan was issued a summons for disorderly conduct March 12 but did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the alleged misclassification of his belongings.

A community affairs officer at the 10th Precinct said Wednesday that the precinct could not comment on an open case.

Hasan previously had trouble with police back in 2014, when he said he received a total of 30 tickets for alleged offenses ranging from being in the intersection with his cart to not keeping his cart clean — claims he denies.

"He wrote that I was in the intersection," Hasan said through Eid of one of the tickets he received  that year. "How could I be in the intersection if I was on the sidewalk?"

Some of the tickets were dismissed, and he paid a total of $50 that year, along with doing four days of community service at a food kitchen in Hell's Kitchen, he said. 

Hasan, who moved to the United States from Egypt eight years ago, supports his wife and three children in New Jersey on the approximately $200 a day he earns as a vendor.

He and his wife already paid his rent for March, but they are covering other expenses with money from savings, since he has no other source of income, he said.

“When the police [took] the cart," he said, "all my business [went away]."