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Coffee Vendor Takes On NYC Over Disputed Cart Location -- And Wins

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's a David-beats-Goliath story.

A Brooklyn coffee vendor will be able to keep the same spot he's manned for 16 years, all because CBS 2 shined the spotlight on an apparently arbitrary decision by the city Department of Transportation.

For Ahmed Kalifa it was a little bit like a magic trick. Last Tuesday, a bike rack in downtown Brooklyn was going to force him to move his cart. On Monday the offending bike rack got disappeared.

It's a case where an immovable object suddenly became, well, movable. Officials took the bike rack and moved it down the street.

"I feel very grateful. My business is back now and I get to be normal every day now," Kalifa told CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

Kalifa said he called CBS 2 because he was terrified he'd lose his cart or have to move from the location he's occupied for 16 years. The reason? The often belligerent DOT installed a bike rack near his cart and said he was through.

"If I don't move they take away my cart," Kalifa told Kramer.

Ahmed Kalifa
Ahmed Kalifa (CBS 2)

City vending regulations say carts have to be 20 feet from any building entrance. The bike rack crowded him out, putting his cart 18 1/2 feet from the entrance.

CBS 2 called Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who then told the DOT it had some explaining to do.

"Common sense prevailed and a man's business gets to go on," Quinn said. "What New York needs to be about is supporting hard-working immigrants like this coffee vendor."

Kalifa's loyal customers were jubilant.

"Congratulations Ahmed, we love you," one person said.

"He's a great man," added a woman from the Bronx. "Sometime when you don't have money he lets you go because he knows you're going to come right back."

"We are so happy about it. It's fantastic. They moved the bike rack and thank you for your help. [We] can't do without him," added Belinda Lindros of East New York.

A number of Kalifa's customers said this is proof that you can fight City Hall.

The DOT not only moved the bike rack that was keeping the vendor from complying with its law, but a second one as well. So, Kalifa will have plenty of room for his cart and his customers.

This story came to CBS 2 through its tip line. If you have a story you'd like CBS 2 to check out, please call 1-855-896-8477.

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