For this 44-year courthouse newsstand vendor, Trump’s historic arrest is just another day downtown

All of them were employees of the New York court system or the city’s Correction Department. 

Each one greeted Azad as if he were an old friend, referring to him by his nickname, John.

“Busy day — hey John?” one said, nodding toward the groups of reporters and cameramen on the sidewalk. 

“Not for me,” he replied. “It’s not busy at all.”

He woke up around 4 a.m that morning, washed his face, brushed his teeth, ate breakfast. 

Azad observes Ramadan, so he made sure to eat before sunrise. Eggs with rice, some fish and vegetables.

Then he said his prayers, got dressed and walked to the F train from his home in Briarwood, Queens. 

Prices and a notice about the refund policy adorn Abul Kalam Azad's newsstand near New York Criminal Court on April 4, 2023.
Prices and a notice about the refund policy adorn Azad’s newsstand.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

About 45 minutes later, he shuffled up to his stand, unlocked the gate and wiped down the counter with a brown napkin. Then he pulled out the potato chips and laid out the newspapers — eight copies of the New York Post, four copies of the New York Daily News, one New York Times.

“Day of the Don,” read the cover of the Post.

“Historic Surrender,” blared the headline across the front of the Daily News. 

A man in a gray skull cap walked up and bought a $2 scratch-off game. 

“If you do the crime, you have to do the time — right, John?” he said.

Roughly 90 minutes later, about 10 men appeared across the street wearing white T-shirts that read “Blacks for Trump.” A small group of reporters gathered around them.

“We’re going to win the election and then we’re going to put Hillary’s ass in jail, Obama’s ass in jail, Oprah’s ass in jail,” said the ringleader of the group, Maurice Symonette, who lives in South Florida. 

Symonette walked off, and then a Trump impersonator wearing a dark suit and blond wig popped up on the other side of Centre St.

Bags of chips and pretzels are enclosed in a plastic bag near the fridge at Abul Kalam Azad's newsstand near New York Criminal Court on April 4, 2023.
A selection of snacks at Azad’s newsstand.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

“I call him meatball Ron,” the impersonator said, referring to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump rival. “And he’s not doing too good.”

Azad didn’t leave his stand to take a look. He was speaking broken Spanish to a construction worker who bought a $1.25 bag of mixed nuts. 

Throughout the morning, small groups of Trump supporters and counterprotesters milled about in a small park directly across from the courthouse.

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., a Trump supporter best known for lying about his background, walked into the park surrounded by TV cameras, as a woman holding a “Trump 24 or Before” sign was speaking to a Danish journalist.

“My father is a CPA,” the woman said. “I know Trump isn’t a criminal.”

Back at Azad’s stand, a woman in sweatpants bought a bottle of sparkling water, and a man smoking a cigarette stopped to ask “John” how he was doing. 

“Happy to be alive,” said Azad, who is married and has two grown children, both of whom served in the Army. 

His son is getting his Ph.D. to be a research scientist. His daughter is studying to be an accountant. 

“God is good,” Azad added.

He had triple-bypass surgery in 2018. Since then, his wife and kids have been hounding him to give up the newsstand and take some rest. But Azad can’t imagine not being here, chatting with all of his friends in uniform. 

“Business must be booming,” a police officer said to him. 

“Nope,” he replied, nodding toward the reporters camped out nearby. “They’re cheap.”

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