Kassem Honored for Perseverance in the Face of Immense Opposition from Anti-Vendor Restaurant Owners. Award to be Presented at the 2012 Vendy Awards, September 15th on Governors Island.
The Vendy Awards has announced its firsthonoree of 2012, naming Bay Ridge vendor Sammy Kassem as this year’s “Most Heroic Vendor.” Sammy, who has withstood immense opposition from anti-vendor business owners in his community, is being honored for his perseverance and commitment to street vendors’ rights.
The Vendys’ Most Heroic Vendor award recognizes the many non-culinary contributions vendors make to New York City. From spotting fires in Columbus Circle to spotting car bombers in Times Square (yes, that was a vendor!), vendors make hundreds of small contributions each day that often go unrecognized.
This year’s most heroic vendor is Sammy Kassem, a 21-year-old halal food vendor in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Over the last several months, some brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area have tried to force Sammy out of his usual spot at on 86th & 5th, even going so far as to nail park benches to Sammy’s vending area to keep his cart out. Sammy has stood strong in the face of this anti-vendor harassment, rightly asserting that hard-working street vendors have the same right as restaurant owners to make a living in the community.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award from the Street Vendor Project, and to see that my advocacy has accomplished something in my community,” said Sammy Kassem. “This award is not just for me, not just for 86th St., but for all street vendors in New York City. We work hard, we do our jobs, we support our families, and we defend our rights. I hope this helps raise awareness in my community that all Americans have the right to make an honest living.”
“Up against circumstances that would break most people, Sammy has triumphed,” said Sean Basinski, Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. “Even as he continues to face threats, harassment, and even physical barriers to running his business, Sammy returns to work each day to make a living for his family and to serve his loyal customers the food they love. Sammy is an inspiration vendors across the City, and I’m proud to present him with the well-deserved Most Heroic Vendor award.”
The Vendy Awards are an annual event organized by Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, a membership-based organization of more than 1,500 vendors. SVP’s famed Vendy Awards have determined New York City’s top street chef for 8 years, and have become one of the most beloved and widely-anticipated food events in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Sammy will be presented with the Most Heroic Vendor award at this year’s NYC event, which will take place on Saturday, September 15th at Governors Island. General admission tickets are available at nycvendys2012.eventbrite.com.
In addition to competing for the Vendy Cup, Rookie of the Year, Best Dessert, and the People’s Taste Award, a new crop of finalists will compete for Best Market Vendor, a category honoring a new breed of mobile vendor popping up at local street fairs and outdoor markets. This year’s judges include Food & Wine Magazine’s Restaurant Editor Kate Krader, chef and owner of BaoHaus Eddie Huang, and hip-hop group Das Racist.
Members of the press should request a press pass HERE by September 5th. Follow the Vendy Awards on Twitter for the latest news and announcements at @vendyawards, or find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/VendyAwards.
ABOUT THE STREET VENDOR PROJECT AT THE URBAN JUSTICE CENTER
The Vendy Awards are an annual benefit event for the non-profit the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with more than 1,500 active vendor members who are working together to create a vendors’ movement for permanent change. The Street Vendor Project is part of the Urban Justice Center, a non-profit organization that provides legal representation and advocacy to various marginalized groups of New Yorkers. To join their list of supporters, please click here.