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Controversy greets Baldwin hot dog vendor

Catherina Scalia serves a customer. (May 9, 2012)

Catherina Scalia serves a customer. (May 9, 2012) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The hot dog vendor who moonlighted as a prostitute pulled her van into its usual spot off eastbound Sunrise Highway in Baldwin at about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday and, as she promised, was back in a bikini top -- along with a raincoat and rain pants -- selling to customers.

But Catherina Scalia, 45, of East Rockaway, who admitted in court Tuesday to soliciting a police officer, wasn't there for long.

Three hours later, after a confrontation with a member of the Baldwin Civic Association and a man who owns the property, Nassau County police descended on the scene and Scalia was forced to move her hot dog truck farther east on Sunrise Highway, parking it on the street near Freeport High School.

"I had no idea she was working here," said Jerry Koenig, owner of vacant A-1 Transmissions where Scalia started her day Wednesday. The transmission business is now in Merrick, Koenig said, though he still owns the lot.

"She had no permission to be here," Koenig said.

Police, who arrested Scalia last Thursday, saying she offered to engage in sex at her house with an undercover police officer, approached her truck again about 1 p.m. at her second location and told her she had to pack up and leave the area altogether.

In the vacant lot, she had a confrontation with Jessenia Mendez-Velazquez, 33, who said she is a member of the Baldwin Civic Association. "We don't want you here. Get out of here. Go somewhere else," Mendez-Velazquez yelled.

She ordered three hot dogs from Scalia, then handed her fake $1 bills -- leaving the franks behind. When Scalia told her, "Don't come back!" Mendez-Velazquez responded: "I'll be back until you're gone!"

Her first customer, Joe Calderon, 34, from Marine Park, Brooklyn, said, "I came for a hot dog and only a hot dog. I had to do it. I can't believe she's actually here."

Calderon, a National Grid worker, spent $2 on a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut.

Motorists zipping by her van peppered her with honking horns and comments, some supportive but others of a crude nature.

"From the Playboy Mansion to Nassau County," said Scalia, who said she sells hot dogs by day and strips at night from her home. "Let's go. Let's make some hot dogs." She added: "I'd rather be here than in the Nassau jail."

As Scalia pulled her truck from the A-1 lot just after noon, Mendez-Velazquez yelled to her: "Don't come back. Stay away from our schools."

But when Scalia got settled in her second location further up on Sunrise Highway, there was more trouble.

"Are you aware that you need a peddler's license?" a Nassau police officer asked Scalia. "You have to go. Pack up."

Scalia has a Nassau County Department of Health food vendor permit, records show, but she acknowledged she lacked the peddler's permit needed to sell her hot dogs in Hempstead.

"I've got to get one more permit," Scalia said as she packed her things. "Tomorrow's another day."

Police said Scalia was arrested last week after offering to engage in sex at her house with an undercover officer. The officer went to Scalia's truck, bought two hot dogs and asked about business cards on the counter offering stripteases and other sexually oriented services, Nassau Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said. Scalia told the undercover officer to call her -- and, police said, she told him that she could go to his house or he could go to hers.

At 8:20 p.m., the officer arrived at Scalia's house, Smith said. Court records state she offered to entertain the officer and perform a sex act for $150. Scalia was released on bail Tuesday and will be sentenced to seven days in jail on June 18.

Wednesday, Scalia promised to continue working -- and did not appear to be worried about being arrested again. She continued to hand out her business cards, which advertise her stripping service.

"I love the attention, and I hope business picks up from it," Scalia said, adding that she may sell her hot dogs in Long Beach Thursday.

With John Valenti

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