The title of top dog will soon belong to Abyan Food Service Corp.
On Friday, the company is set to start a four-year deal with the New York City Parks Department to operate a hot dog cart outside the former Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park, paying a plump $1.39 million for the coveted spot.
Its fees to the Parks department — equivalent to more than $27,000 a month — will make the Tavern cart the most expensive hot dog stand to operate in the city.
The man in charge of Abyan is Abdul Qudus Siddiquee. Reached by phone, Siddiquee said he wasn’t worried about making his obligatory payments to the Parks department. “Maybe I can make for some money,” he said of the cart.
Abyan won the contract by bidding the most for the spot outside the former restaurant at 67th Street and Central Park West. The building is closed for renovations until summer 2013, when, after a brief stint as a visitors center and gift shop, it will reopen as a restaurant offering casual fare.
Siddiquee says he doesn’t fear operating in the shadows of Central Park’s restaurant showpiece, which will be paying the city the equivalent of about $161,000 a month for a facility many times the size of Siddiquee’s cart. But the previous holder of the record for most expensive hot dog cart found himself crushed by unexpected competition. In 2009, the Parks Department evicted a hot dog vendor who fell $310,000 behind on rent for two carts parked outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, explained that although Central Park is by far the most desirable Parks Department property for concessions— “it’s a gold mine,” he said— there are no guarantees that vendors can afford the sizable rent required of million-dollar contracts.
“It’s a risk,” said. “People try to judge how much these spots are worth, but how do you know, really?”
The Parks department says it has measures in place to make sure concessionaires can pay the fee they bid.
“We require a security deposit in the form of a certified check of 25 per cent of the highest year’s fee,” said Phil Abramson, a spokesperson for the Department of Parks and Recreation, in an email to the New York World. “If we are concerned about high fees we then ask the bidder to provide financial statements that show he has the wherewithal to pay.”
Abramson added that if a vendor can’t pay, the Department can find them non-responsive and terminate their contract, which is ultimately what happened with the vendor outside the Met.
The cart outside Tavern on the Green will be one of five carts owned by Siddique’s company. In addition to two other smaller contracts that will begin Friday, Abyan also signed on to two other four-year contracts with the Parks Department last year.
Not all of them paid Central Park West rents. A cart on Riverside Drive near Grant’s Tomb pays the city just $1,115 a month.
On a recent weekday afternoon, the vendor working the stand, a Bangladeshi immigrant named Mohammad Akanda, sold a few water bottles to a tour bus driver . After handing over the cold bottles of water, Mohammed estimated he sold about $150 to $200 worth of product per day. And as for the hot dogs? “Here, little sell,” he said, adding, “Sometimes hot dog 25, sometimes 10, sometimes nothing.”