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Food vendors close to UN General Assembly meeting report losses


Afsal Ahmed makes a sale on his food cart near the United Nations Headquarters during the 2009 U.N. General Assembly Meeting.  (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

Afsal Ahmed makes a sale on his food cart near the United Nations Headquarters during the 2009 U.N. General Assembly Meeting. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

By DANIEL WOOLFOLK

As busy as Midtown East was during the 2009 United Nations General Assembly, most people would expect that to be a boom to surrounding businesses. But many street cart vendors said they were losing money.

Jimmy Androu serves Greek food from his food cart, “Jimmy’s Spot,” on 47th Street between Second and Third Avenues about four blocks west of the United Nations Headquarters.

He has been in the food cart business for the past 13 years and has come to expect a lull in business because of street closures.

“I do business with traffic and stuff,” he said.  “The streets are closed, so they don’t let nobody go through.” His street did have traffic going through at that time, but it was interrupted while a  visiting dignitary’s motorcade made a high-profile stop at One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a stone’s throw away.

Androu was reluctant to give out figures, but said his daily loss was more than $100.

“Might be more, even more,” he said. “But I cannot say exactly.”

Mahammed Ibrahim, an Egyptian shish-kabob vendor with an Islamic prayer scar, had to move his location from 49th Street and Lexington Avenue to the southwest corner of 47th Street and Third Avenue, he said in Arabic and broken English. The street was closed because President Obama was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

Ibrahim has been in the United States for six months and usually makes about $200 a day. But for the Thursday of  General Assembly week, he estimated that his income would be about $175.

Raihan Ubdin was also losing money, he said.  The Bangladeshi has been serving Gyros at Kwik Meal for a month on the southeast corner of 43rd  Street and Third Avenue, he said, and he estimated he would make $250 on Thursday.

He said many people from the area buy at his cart, because it is cheaper than a similar sit-down restaurant nearby.

His neighbor, Afsal Ahmed, also a Bengladeshi, was having better luck at his fruit cart.  He said he was staying at about his normal $200 a day.

While he was selling, a long motorcade with a black Cadillac limousine sped by, escorted by cars with full lights and sirens.  Members of a tactical team, armed with assault rifles, followed in a van with an open rear doors.

Ahmed continued with his sales, making about three in roughly five minutes.

“This week is good because First and Second Avenue all closed, that’s why,” he said. “I have no competition.”

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