Weiner Takes All

Want to make a little easy money? Whatever you do, don't go into business hawking hot dogs on the street. It's a jungle out there.

Others, she says, have had similar experiences. "Nos sac cents la sangre, como decimos," she says. He drew blood from us, as we say. "When I think of all the poor people he has taken advantage of, it makes me sick. I watched him take over downtown." In order to ensure his dominance, Rivera says, Yaber harangued any peddler who dared to park a cart in one of "his" spots. "You would see him driving by and shouting at people, 'Hey you, get out of my spot! Hey, thief!' He'd tell them he was going to call the police. That will scare anyone without papers."

Rivera, who has since obtained her green card, says she paid for her cart by giving Yaber eighteen months of free work, chopping onions and doing other chores mornings and evenings at the bodega. (Yaber says he gave Rivera her cart as a reward for her years of service to him.) Until recently, she adds, she bought all her supplies from Yaber. "I guess I did it to show him respect after all the years I had worked for him," she muses. "I suppose I was also afraid."

Her tiny stature does not lessen the fierceness of her pose, arms thrown back and small fists pressing her Milano Girl jeans deeper into her soft waist. But the sternness disappears a moment later, and she breaks into a grin defined by gapped front teeth. "Hey Jose," she calls out to a well-dressed man. "How are you?" He stops to chat for a moment and buys a Coke. He is just one of dozens of customers, many of whom shell out $1.25 apiece for Rivera's Zion hot dogs. "Listen, I'm not afraid of Amado Yaber any more," she says during a lull. "I have lots of friends who will stand by me."

So does Amado Yaber. Though Yaber himself grew so incensed at being questioned about his business that he refused to listen to any allegations concerning harassment of other peddlers or the hiring of undocumented workers, many of his colleagues are quick to vouch for him personally. The majority of the people who deal with him praise him for his hard work, his colorful character, and most of all for his largess to those beneath him. One vendor, who will identify himself only as Danilo and who operates a cart near Jackson Memorial Hospital, has kind words about the hot dog honcho. Danilo says he worked for Yaber for six years before purchasing a cart from his boss for $2500 earlier this year. "He lent me the money with no interest," the vendor says. "There aren't many people in the world who would do that for you. I pay him back whatever I can at the end of each month. Sometimes $50, sometimes $100, sometimes $300, depending."

And Yaber does acknowledge his dependence on the vendors. "[They] helped me build up my capital," he says. "Without them, I would be nothing.

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