Cobble Hill shopkeepers and local residents are reeling from the sudden death of Muyassar Moustapha, who was fatally run over on Atlantic Avenue on Sunday night. Moustapha, 66, was a neighborhood fixture who for decades operated the Oriental Pastry & Grocery on Atlantic, just steps from where he was struck by a Mercedes driver after picking up ice cream at the Key Food across the street.
Moustapha's storefront remained closed yesterday, with its metal gate down and daily deliveries piling up on the sidewalk. The shop, which sells a wide variety of spices, snacks, and other Middle Eastern staples, has been a family-run business since it changed hands over 60 years ago, shortly after the Moustapha family immigrated from Syria to Bay Ridge. Muyassar was the middle of three brothers, Anis and Gary, who have a reputation for their neighborly generosity.
According to longtime Cobble Hill resident Al Shaia, a frequent patron of Oriental Pastry & Grocery, Moustapha was returning from a routine errand at Key Food when he was hit while crossing Atlantic Avenue. "He had heart trouble two years ago, so he always crossed at the light and he was always careful, even yelling at other people to use the crosswalk," said Shaia of Moustapha's alleged decision to jaywalk around 8:25 p.m. on Sunday.
A police source tells the Daily News that Moustapha was not in the crosswalk when he was struck, but an NYPD spokesman would not confirm that during a brief interview with Gothamist. The spokesman said no arrests have been made, but the investigation is ongoing.
Yanece Cotto remembers the Moustapha family's constant presence during her Muslim-American upbringing in the neighborhood. She now works at the Urban Outfitters next to Oriental Pastry & Grocery, and recalls Muyassar Moustapha as a "beautiful, wonderful person who would help you with whatever you needed."
The brothers who run Sahadi Imports across Atlantic Avenue, Charlie and Bob Sahadi, describe themselves as "very friendly competitors" with the Moustaphas. Though neither had heard news of the tragedy until they arrived at work on Monday morning, the owners were quick to share fond memories of the late Moustapha brother, who they said "was always right there for us whenever something came up, like if we needed to borrow something." Noting that both stores share a long history on this stretch of Atlantic Avenue, the Sahadis believe that "this is a wonderful street to be on, because everyone gives a damn about the other guy," citing Moustapha's particular role in fostering a neighborly climate on their block.
"I don't agree with some of the things Mayor de Blasio came up with, but if that car was driving at 25 miles per hour, this gentleman would not be dead today," said Charlie Sahadi when asked about the deadly traffic on Atlantic Avenue. "Everyone has their moments when they're in a hurry to get somewhere," added Bob, the younger Sahadi brother, "but then you ask yourself if it was really worth it, and the answer is that it definitely wasn't."