Burger King in NYC Faces $15M Lawsuit, Allegedly Permitting ‘Open Air Drug Marketplace’ Operated by ‘Experienced’ Dealers

Burger King in NYC Faces M Lawsuit, Allegedly Permitting ‘Open Air Drug Marketplace’ Operated by ‘Experienced’ Dealers

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It’s a Whopper of a problem.

A Burger King blocks from City Hall is so overrun with drug dealers, junkies and unhinged vagrants that an angry neighbor is suing the fast-food operator for $15 million for helping to turn “Fulton Street into an open air drug bazaar.”

A group of eight to 10 “professional drug dealers” are allegedly having it their way at the BK at 106 Fulton St., near Dutch Street, which they use as a “base of operation, selling illegal drugs either at the entrance . . . or during inclement weather, selling illegal drugs within the Burger King restaurant itself,” according to the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed by Kevin Kaufman, who has lived on the block for 20 years.

The Post witnessed several people exchanging cash but could not verify the presence of drugs. J.C. Rice

“We’ve reached out to every direction we can and the only ones that seem to be responsive and listening are the cops,” said Kaufman, 69, a married filmmaker who raised his two kids in FiDi. “Cops are doing everything they can to get rid of these people, but they’re handcuffed. It’s this idiotic bail reform. They have arrested a couple of people, but they are back within 24 hours.”

There have been two arrests and 143 calls to 911 related to the Burger King’s address since Jan. 1, 2023, according to the NYPD, which would not provide a detailed breakdown of the emergency calls.

This week, The Post observed:

  • A group of eight men and a woman posted up outside the door on Tuesday, as roughly a dozen civilians sat inside eating burgers and fries. The crew blocked the restaurant’s entry for hours, with one man acting as a doorman with a cup seeking change, while others glared from atop Citi Bikes and along the restaurant’s glass exterior. The crowding forced several pedestrians to swerve off the sidewalk and into the street.
  • One of the group members, in a black puffer jacket, grabbed and pocketed cash from a haggard-looking man in a blue shirt before quickly handing off to him what may have been drugs.
  • Two of the men, one dressed in a neon yellow vest and Air Jordan hat, sat on the Citi Bikes and knocked back Smirnoff vodka from plastic 200 ml. bottles. Another man, wearing a brown hoodie, smoked a series of fat joints and peddled loose cigarettes to Burger King customers leaving the restaurant, passersby and his associates.
  • Members of the group repeatedly entered and exited the restaurant, never ordering food, and used the desolate space as their office. The apparent leader of the group sat at a table while sipping coffee from a Dunkin’ cup and holding meetings with associates. Another member plopped down at a window seat to monitor the traffic outdoors while rolling joints.
  • On Thursday, seven rowdy members of the group again milled for hours in front of the restaurant, passing the time by shadow boxing, play fighting and yelling at one another. One hot-head wearing a white T-shirt tore up a summons before shouting at a pair of cops, “They work for Biden. Get the f–k out of here.” 

“This is around the corner from the mayor, his office is right there, and it’s like ‘Dude, clean up your neighborhood,” fumed another resident, 47, who has lived on Fulton Street for 15 years and asked for anonymity.

The restaurant “is never busy, the only people in there are poor, homeless or dealing drugs,” he said. “At least there’d be a mix [if] you go to McDonald’s . . . you’ll never see people from the neighborhood in there because it’s a sh-tshow.” 

“How is this Burger King staying in business and why isn’t it doing anything about it?” wondered another worried neighbor, 40, who added, “The people that scare me are the people this crowd attracts. They’re not mentally safe. . . . There are hours of the night where we no longer feel safe walking our dog. That’s a problem.”

The NYPD says its visited the block where the Burger King is located hundreds of times since 2023. Daniel William McKnight

In addition to seeing people every day who are “clearly f–ked up on drugs,” he said, about once a month the homeless hanging around have “an absolute terrorizing screaming match” and just a few weeks ago, a person was found passed out on the pavement next door to the Burger King.

A Jan. 4 video posted on X by the account Fulton St Coalition shows two men in a wild brawl, with one body-slamming another into the pavement in a scene out of professional wrestling.

“There’s no restaurant patrons, no one goes in there to eat,” said neighbor Evan Gillman, who sees the same faces regularly outside the restaurant. “These guys are here all day.”

Major crimes in the First Precinct, which covers Burger King and Fulton Center, are up 2.4% so far this year compared to the same period in 2023, according to NYPD data, including a 14% jump in felony assaults, a 52% spike in burglaries and 7% increase in petty larcenies.

“Quality of life complaints remain a real concern to residents in all city neighborhoods,” a department spokesman said. “The NYPD deploys our officers where crime is reported in response to community complaints and will continue to address these conditions as the public demands and expects we should.”

Neighbors have complained about drug dealing in and outside the Burger King on Fulton Street, where The Post witnessed money being exchanged but could not confirm drugs also changed hands. Daniel William McKnight

Kaufman said his beef is with the fast food joint’s owner, Lalmir Sultanzada. Sultanzada, 66, of Melville, Long Island, an immigrant from Afghanistan who owns several fast food franchises, including Popeye’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and others in the five boroughs and Long Island.

“He doesn’t take responsibility, he throws it on the lap of the cops instead of hiring security himself and policing his own store,” fumed Kaufman, whose work includes producing the first season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” in 2006 and the 2018 A&E documentary “Gotti: Godfather and Son.”

“Fulton Street is now a neighborhood in crisis,” Kaufman claimed in court papers in which he alleged the gaggle out front are “professional drug dealers who have long criminal records and are well known among local law enforcement.”

The Burger King has become an “open air drug bazaar,” according to a lawsuit.
Helayne Seidman

Kaufman’s multimillion lawsuit against the restaurant and Burger King’s corporate office accuses them of violating New York’s private nuisance law — which is intended to prevent intentional or unreasonable interference with someone’s enjoyment of their property.

Kaufman wants a court to order Burger King to “stop terrorizing his neighborhood and turning Fulton Street into an open air drug bazaar.”

The legal salvo comes as retail giant Westfield moved to abandon its lease managing the nearby Fulton Street Center, citing rising crime and homelessness.

When Kaufman moved in, the area was “very quiet” at night, once the Wall Street crowd left for the day.

Now, “there are crazy people yelling and screaming every night here. It’s nightmarish. If you go close by, to Tribeca, to Battery Park, Soho, you don’t see any of this stuff. It’s all dumped here,” he said. “It’s kind of the city’s garbage can.”

His now-grown kids want he and his wife to get out while they can.

“They’re begging us to get out of here but I don’t want to give up and be pushed away because the city is abusing the neighborhood,” he said.

The problems began in earnest about a year ago, when smoke shops allegedly peddling illegal drugs filled the neighborhood, Kaufman said. “I would say there’s more smoke shops in a two block radius than any part of the city, all selling drugs illegally. What does that do? It attracts people selling drugs.” 

“I’d like to leave on my own terms, not theirs,” he added.

J.C. Rice

It’s not the first lawsuit against a major retailer over crime: in November, two families sued Target for negligence after a homeless man stabbed two people inside a Los Angeles store with a knife from a display, and two weeks ago, a 7-11 in Oregon was sued by the family of a man shot inside by a homeless person who had been working as a security guard.

“It certainly is uncommon to sue retailers for bringing crime to a neighborhood,” said Kaufman’s attorney, Joel Farley.

Private security is too expensive, according to owner Sultanzada, who owns dozens of other fast food franchises.

“That’s not my problem . . . it’s up to the police. I’m not selling drugs,” he fumed. “If I’m going to close the store. who’s going to be responsible for my loss?”

Owner Sultanzada claims he’s also suffering because of the group which has set up shop inside his eatery.

“They’re hanging around, they throw everything inside the stores. A couple of times they hit one of my managers,” he said, alleging the police are not “paying attention” to the issue. “We’ve got the same problem all over: 125th Street, same problem; 116th Street, same problem; go to the Bronx, same problem.

“It’s not me. Go talk with the government, talk with the police department, talk with the mayor, talk with the governor,” he said. “They have to find a solution for those bums, not me.”

The NYPD called the neighborhood a “constant focus for the First Precinct,” noting there has been more than 600 patrols and community visits to the block since 2023.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for Adams, responded to the myriad criticisms by touting the city’s record on crime.

“Our administration believes that all of New York City should be safe, and we’ve effectively brought down crime across the city,” he said.

Additional reporting by Daniel McKnight




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