The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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The Man Behind the Cart

IZ Nissen

The bright yellow and blue awning protects Essam Sayed from the sun as he races to put the dog in the bun. “You want a drink too?” he calls out. “Gimme a coke, Sayed,” a man replies as his hand reaches out of his car window, both to grab his food and shake the seller’s hand. 

Dressed on occasion in Poly merchandise, Sayed has been selling hot dogs on 92nd Street and Parrot Place, only a few steps from the front gates of Poly, for the past thirteen years. 

Sayed, 66, was born in Egypt, a country that he said he loved but left over 40 years ago in search of a better life. He initially moved to Italy, working as a food vendor there (Sayed still speaks fluent Italian to this day). In 1984, he moved to New York City, where he initially worked on Mulberry Street at an Italian restaurant, where he was able to put his fluency in the language to good use.  He eventually moved to America for the same reason he claims every immigrant does: in search of economic opportunity. 

Sayed is an animated man. He talks with his hands almost as much as he does with his words, fully engaged in even the most mundane conversations. Despite missing most of his teeth, his voice booms. When he’s not selling hot dogs, you might catch him kneeling on a prayer rug on the sidewalk, or reading religious texts. 

In 1994, Sayed, with the desire to start his own business, began selling hot dogs in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. He worked there for 15 years, before moving to his current location in 2009 for a couple of reasons. First, the golf course and park, located right next to his stand, attracted a lot of customers. Second, there used to be a doctor’s office located right next to Poly, where The Greek School of Plato is now, that Sayed was endorsed by. Patients at the office would frequently stop by for a hot dog at Sayed’s stand when they were done. Since that move, from the hours of 11:30-6:30, Sayed has become a staple in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

“I’m very nice to everybody here. I’m friends with everybody here,” Sayed said.

Many people — construction workers, old friends of Sayed’s, neighborhood residents — come to Sayed’s stand, not only for a hot dog, but also to stop and chat. Some crack jokes with Sayed, some ask about the business, others chat about neighborhood jargon that only a long-time member of the Dyker Heights community could understand. Sayed never turns away anyone who’s looking to talk, and frequently has his friends and family with him at his stand. 

Unfortunately, Sayed had to take a three year break from his job when COVID hit. Sayed suffered economically during this time and received unemployment payments from the city. He had to give up smoking during this time, which he said has been good for him. Since he returned though, he has seen drastic differences in the success of his business.

“After COVID, it’s not so good. Some people died, some people moved. It’s different people now, and business is moving very slowly. It’s not the same as it was before everything changed.” 

Despite his proximity to Poly, almost no teachers or students from Poly stop at Sayed’s hot dog stand. In fact Sayed can recall the only teacher that ever used to shop at his stand.

“One teacher came once, but she left now. She came and bought two diet pepsis.”

Although Sayed is not very popular amongst Poly teachers and students, his stand is still a crucial spot for other members of the Poly community: the bus drivers. “Some drivers eat sausage, some drivers eat hot dogs, some drivers drink coke,” Sayed explained.

A huge amount of Sayed’s business comes from drivers passing by. From their cars, drivers will place their orders to Sayed by mouthing their requests and signaling how many they may want. By the time they approach in their car, he already has their order ready. They then pull over and roll down the window. They hand him the money, and he hands them their order. “One, two, three, easy. It takes one second,” said Sayed. 

However, Sayed’s duties extend beyond just hotdogs. Despite not being an official worker at Poly, Sayed is an unsung guardian for the Poly community, helping out the security guards with wandering pedestrians.“You can’t make trouble with the school. If someone steps into the school, I say ‘Yo! Go back.’”

In addition, he helps guide drivers attempting to street park on 92nd street. “Nobody can [park] here, even if you go to the school.” 

Even on the weekends Sayed acts as a helpful member for lost members on the Poly campus. “On Sundays, if you have a game, everybody stops [on 92nd Street]. I tell them ‘No, no, go to Seventh Avenue.’”

Of course I had to try one of Sayed’s hotdogs, and I must say, it was good and very quick. So if any students or teachers are looking for a cheap and easy hot dog with ketchup, mustard, onions, or sauerkraut on it, Sayed has got you covered. But even if you are not looking for a hot dog, Sayed’s work for the people at Poly deserves appreciation.

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About the Contributor
IZ Nissen, Photography Editor
IZ Nissen ‘24 joined the Polygon in her Sophomore year of high school. She has remained executive Photography Editor for her three years alongside Sophia Chamorro ‘24. She is also a member of the Girls Lacrosse Team and is  co-leader of our Poly Halo Esport Team which is currently ranked #10 in the nation. She is also one ofthe presidents of Poly’s Women’s Affinity. In her free time you can find her in the back library, studying Psychology or hanging out with friends. As a senior, she looks forward to making this year count and is excited to continue doing what she loves! 

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