A New York lawyer who was roasted on Twitter after posting that she called police to report an unlicensed food vendor says she was trying to highlight the “rapid deterioration” of life in New York City.
Sonya Shaykhoun told The Independent that she stood by her viral tweet in which she described getting into a confrontation with two women selling food in Riverside Park after demanding to see their permit on Tuesday.
Ms Shaykhoun said via email she was unfazed about becoming the “Main Twitter Character” of the day, and would continue to raise concerns about what she described as the “hyper-leftist ideology” of successive city administrations.
The brouhaha began on Wednesday when Ms Shaykhoun tweeted she had come across an “ad hoc unlicensed food stand” at 99th St in Riverside Park while returning from a game of tennis the previous day.
“They were calling out to people to buy from them and I asked them, ‘where’s your permit’ cuz we all know the permit has to be displayed,” Ms Shaykhoun wrote.
She claimed that the stall holder became “belligerent” and started filming her.
“I called her a name. Then I called 911,” she wrote.
Ms Shaykhoun tagged an NYPD Twitter account, asking: “What happened with this? The officers never called me back.”
“We have beautiful parks, if you see ppl defacing them by setting up illegal stands, call the police. Time to take back our beautiful City.”
The tweet, viewed 6.1 million times in less than 48 hours, received thousands of responses from New Yorkers ranging in tone from anger to mockery.
Yesterday I was coming back from tennis in Riverside Park and came upon this ad hoc unlicensed food stand. They were calling out to people to buy from them and I asked them, “where’s your permit” cuz we all know the permit has to be displayed. Well, the woman in blue got… pic.twitter.com/EWwXnrayW4
— Sonya Shaykhoun, Esq. (@SonyaShaykhoun) May 17, 2023
“This is petty and vindictive. Leave people alone. Do not call 911 and post someone’s face for selling food,” wrote one.
“Please leave NYC. We don’t want you here,” another posted.
“Jesus Christ Karen,” a third user wrote. “Get a life and leave others alone.”
“People are struggling in this country to feed them selves, and they have to hustle so they keep a roof over their head and you decided that it was your business to harass these people,” said another.
When one person commented that it was nice to see people still playing tennis, she responded: “The one thing in the city the communists haven’t completely destroyed.”
An unapologetic Ms Shaykhoun responded directly to many of her detractors on Twitter, trading insults, sharing anecdotes, and lamenting about what she described as the decline of New York City.
A minority were also supportive of her stance.
Describing the Riverside Park incident, Ms Shaykhoun told The Independent she had seen two women cooking what appeared to be corn on an open fire.
After asking to see their permit, she said she taken a photo of the food vendor while walking away to upload to the city’s 311, where residents can report quality of life issues.
She claimed one of the food vendors had pursued her, became aggressive, and started filming her. Ms Shaykhoun said the vendor accused her of calling her a b****, but that she didn’t recall saying that.
Ms Shaykhoun said the police had told her they were in the park and would “deal with it”, but she hadn’t heard any more from them.
“A lot of people won’t call the police even if they want to because they don’t want to get the kind of attention I have had,” she told The Independent.
“But if no one calls the police and nips this issue in the bud, the entirety of Riverside Park will be taken over by entitled and belligerent unlicensed vendors who will yell and curse at you if you ask them why they are there without a license.”
Ms Shaykhoun said that as a lawyer, and the daughter of an Egyptian father and an Irish mother, she enjoyed engaging in robust debates on Twitter.
She said she and a group of like-minded associates on Twitter had formed the Save NYC Working Group in February “to fight corruption and its byproducts”.
“Part of my pointing out the illegal vendors was to highlight that even a small infraction like that will upset the functionality of NYC,” she told The Independent.
Ms Shaykhoun said she had received a lot of abusive messages since posting the tweet calling her a Karen, a fascist, and worse.
One text message said they were happy that her sister had died, along with an obituary. Others tried to target her law licence.
“Like why do that? It’s distressing and sinister,” she told The Independent.
The Independent requested comment about the incident from the NYPD, who did not respond.