It sounds like a plotline for an episode of “Seinfeld”: a group of well-heeled Upper West Side residents take on the hot dog vendor — with hilarious results. But this coop v. cart battle is no joke.
Residents of the Beresford on Central Park West — a stately co-op home to Jerry Seinfeld, himself, as well as to singer Diana Ross and tennis legend John McEnroe — are insisting that a hot dog vendor who has set up shop outside the exclusive building move his cart, sources told The Real Deal.
Since the vendor began selling drinks, pretzels and hot dogs from his cart on the northwest corner of 81st Street and Central Park West in the late spring, the building has lodged a series of complaints with its local police precinct and with Community Board 7, which represents the Upper West Side.
The building’s manager, Alex Kalajian of Solstice Residential Management, told The Real Deal in a statement: “The Beresford Board and Solstice Residential Management have filed several complaints with the authorities about this vendor without success. This vendor occupies a very narrow part of the congested sidewalk at the northwest corner of Central Park West and West 81st Street, right in front of the subway entrance, and poses both a safety hazard and adds considerable refuse along the street, including overflowing garbage receptacles.”
About 90 percent of the building’s residents have told the building staff that they are unhappy with the cart’s presence on the corner, a doorman at the building’s Central Park-facing entrance told The Real Deal today.
“I think the problem with this truck is that he has lights on underneath the umbrella and around the truck. He has a little gas generator and it makes a bit of a noise,” said attorney Stephen Axinn, a resident who said he personally has no problem with the vendor. “If you were a second-floor or third-floor tenant on the corner, you might object to that.”
Furthermore, the vendor is a nuisance to residents whose windows are directly above the corner, Kalajian said, and whose apartments are filled with hot dog odor all day.
“Within a very short period of time the Beresford’s newly installed sidewalk has become heavily soiled,” Kalajian said. “It appears that for purely economic reason, the vendor has occupied this unsuitable location to poach customers entering and leaving the subway and getting off the bus on West 81st Street, abandoning the long-standing and much more appropriate location on the very wide sidewalk at the southwest corner of West 81st Street.”
The residents may be fighting a losing battle, however. A spokesperson for Community Board 7 said the vendor, who is of Middle Eastern descent and speaks little English, has a valid permit and every right to occupy the corner, which is not under the control of the Parks and Recreation Department. While the Parks Department requires additional permits and documentation for vendors to occupy park-side corners, the corners opposite the park are under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
While a spokesperson for the health department did not immediately respond to a query about whether complaints have been lodged against the vendor, she said he is unlikely to be violating any city laws. “[Vendors] can change their location,” she said. “We have a list of intersections that, for a variety of reasons, [might be off limits]. Maybe it’s close to a subway entrance or in an area of really bad traffic. Otherwise, they’re free to go wherever they want.”
Axinn said he thinks the complaints are uncalled for, given the noisy nature of the corner. “Some people are just so intolerant,” he said. “It’s street noise. Get real people, this is New York City! Amongst all of the nuisances and annoyances that the city can bring, this is a petty nuisance.”
The Emery Roth-designed building, which was also home to former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke prior to his death in 2010, has somewhat of a reputation for fussiness. When it was suggested a few years ago that an exercise room be installed in the building’s basement, a handful of residents were vehemently opposed to the idea, Axinn said.
“They didn’t want tenants sweating in the elevator,” he said.