Volume 22, Number 32 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 18 - 24, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson
Mamun Alsasua tends to his hot dog cart in the Spring St. subway station.
Vendor does not relish firefighters’ ‘snub’
By Lincoln Anderson
The image of firefighters rescuing a cat stuck in a tree is a feel-good cliché. But firefighters rescuing dogs stuck in the subway — well, the answer seems to be “no way.” Dogs, that is — as in a runaway hot dog cart.
Tuesday night, just before 8 p.m., Mamun Alsasua was starting to move his hot dog cart from its usual spot at Spring St. and Sixth Ave., to head to his garage at Lafayette and E. Fourth Sts., and turned on its battery-powered motor, which helps the journey. But somehow the cart went shooting away like a rocket. Alsasua tried to stop it by directing it into the wall of the entrance to the C/E subway station — but the cart bounced off the handrail and went hurtling through the entrance, settling on a landing about 10 or 15 stairs below. Luckily, no one was on the usually busy stairs at the time.
Anthony “Mike” DeJesus, who vends newspapers next to Alsasua, called 911. At first, the operator didn’t understand what he was saying.
“She asked me was it a car,” he said. “I said, ‘It’s a frankfurter cart that fell in the station.” DeJesus said he told the operator there was a firehouse just three blocks away.
Four or five fire trucks raced to the scene, sirens blaring. But after they arrived, the firefighters apparently decided they wouldn’t help Alsasua extricate his cart from the stairwell.
“They say they can’t help me, it’s not their duty,” the vendor said. A Bangladeshi immigrant, he has worked at the spot 11 years, seven days a week.
After the smoke eaters left, DeJesus called down the block to Richie Gamba, the “Mayor of Spring St.”
“See what I mean with the mayor? Nobody helps,” Gamba grumbled, looking down at the cart, then tried unsuccessfully to raise some friends on his cell phone to lend a hand.
Next morning, Alsasua said it wasn’t until two hours later that he got his cart out — thanks to 10 guys from his garage who came and helped, plus 10 passersby, whom he gave free sodas.
Jim Long, a Fire Department spokesperson, said, “The call they got was for an odor of smoke, and it came unfounded. There was no contact with anyone who knew anything about the cart.” However, told that Alsasua said he, in fact, did talk to the firefighters, Long said, “It’s a little puzzling why the F.D.N.Y. units did not lend assistance to correct the situation.”