Good small business profile in the NY Daily News
, offering perspective on who is getting displaced by the Iron Triangle renovation plans...Frank's Franks is a hot dog stand that is "on the scene for lunch" - but its blue-collar owners are wondering just how long they'll be able to stick around.
Frank Kasiaras, the eponymous hot dog purveyor, and his buddy, Phillip Wieczkowski, peddle wieners to hungry Mets fans from a dusty sidewalk at the edge of Willets Point, the industrial enclave near Shea Stadium.
"This is my livelihood," Kasiaras said one day recently as dogs sizzled on the curbside stand at the corner of 126th St. and 34th Ave. "There is money here."
But Frank and Phil, like the owners of some 260 businesses in Willets Point, are worried the good times may not last much longer now that the city is pushing to redevelop the gritty strip into a megadevelopment.
"All of my life I've been trying to do something," said Kasiaras, who first lit his grill on 126th St. earlier this year. "And then when I finally get a chance it may not be there anymore."
Kasiaras, 46, of Jackson Heights, and Wieczkowski, 56, of Elmhurst, are friends from their days tending bar at Donegal Tavern, a now-defunct Elmhurst saloon popular with cops from the nearby 110th Precinct.
When the tavern went belly up, Frank and Phil decided to start grilling for a living, and applied to the city for a wiener stand license.
They opened last year on Broadway and 51st. Ave. in Elmhurst - and nearly lost their shirts. But then Kasiaras "stumbled" upon solid-gold frankfurter real estate - a vendor-less sidewalk across from Citi Field, Shea Stadium's heir apparent.
"It was such a dream come true," Kasiaras said before the first pitch of a recent Mets home game - a sellout for Frank's Franks.
The apron-clad Kasiaras grills the $1.50 franks while Wieczkowski plays the role of salesman.
"Three for the price of one," he yells, stopping to explain two numbers - 1084 and 1063 - displayed next to "Frank's Franks" on the cart's front side.
"1084" means "on the scene" in cop lingo, Wieczkowski said, and "1063" is "meal."
"So we're on the scene for lunch," he said with a laugh. "That's what happens when you hang out too much at a cop bar!"
But their successful spot is in jeopardy if the City Council approves Mayor Bloomberg's controversial Willets Point redevelopment plan in November. But Frank's Franks could get booted in other ways.
The Parks Department, which owns the Citi Field land, has yet to talk with Mets honchos about the future of vendors who work the area surrounding the new ballpark, which is set to open next year, said a city source.
Though Kasiaras and Wieczkowski are versed in cop-speak, they don't know if police have a word for "limbo."