I was born in Ramallah, Palestine and came to the U.S.when I was 15 years old. My father was a U.S. citizen, andI knew if I came before I was 18 I could get a green card.Plus, it was hard living in Palestine. I sometimes get ar-
rested by the Israeli police because I didn’t have a Pales-
tinian resident card. I was born in Palestine, but my par-
ents fled to Jordan during the ’67 war, so we were not counted as residents when they took the census.In Queens, I enrolled in high school, but I didn’t speak any English, so school was very difficult. I dropped out
after a few months and went to work with my dad, selling sheets and bedspreads door-to-door. Sometimes Igot lost in my own neighborhood
– I couldn’t ask anyone for help or even read the street signs.
After that, I went to work in a pizzeria, then in a stationary store in Astoria, then I became a cab driver for 17years off and on. At one point I opened up a coffee shop in Long Island City. I also managed a supermarket.But I wanted to make falafel and schwarma the way we did it back home. I scouted the spot for a couple of years, then opened the cart with Sammy, who worked with me at the supermarket. There is a big Palestiniancommunity in New Jersey, but not much of one in Queens, so its hard to find real Palestinian food here. Ithought there would be a market for it.I love working in Astoria. It is near my apartment in Woodside, and there is a real community here. The samepeople walk by every day on their way to the subway, so we get to know almost everyone. I have made a lotof friends at the cart. I see women when they are pregnant, then I see them carrying their babies, then I get to
see the children grow up. I’ll leave the cart a little early if its slow. But seven days a week, I’m here.
Freddy from “the King of Falafel &
Shawarma30th Street and Broadway, AstoriaAge: 41 Years in business: 5Specialty: falafel, shawarma
About the Organization
The mission of the Street Vendor Project is to advance economic justice and civil rights for all thepeople who sell their wares on the streets and sidewalks of New York City. This diverse group of about 10,000 New Yorkers
enlivens our city by providing convenient food andmerchandise at reasonable prices. Vendors are a hallmark of our city. Yet, for many years, they havebeen besieged by more powerful forces. The waiting list to get some licenses is more than 20 yearslong. Huge swaths of the city have been closed to all vending. Every day, many vendors are arrestedand prosecuted for no crime other than trying to make an honest living.The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with more than 650 active members who are
working together to create a vendors’ movement for permanent change. Finding vendors in the streets
and the storage garages, we hold legal workshops to educate vendors about how to combat policeharassment. We publish reports and file lawsuits
and hold events like the Vendy Awards
to raisepublic awareness about vendors and the contribution they make to our city. We also help vendorsgrow their businesses by facilitating access to small business training and loans.The Street Vendor Project is part of the Urban Justice Center, a non-profit organization that provideslegal representation and advocacy to various marginalized groups of New Yorkers. The Street Vendor Project is funded through member dues, a few private foundations, and generous individuals like you.To learn more, please go to www.streetvendor.org.
Our Esteemed Team of Judges
Ron Kuby Ed Levine Sarah MoultonMichael Musto Mo Rocca