DYKER HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — Greg Maugeri and his family built a hot chocolate stand back in 2015 and, each December, they put it in his aunt's driveway in Dyker Heights and provide hot chocolate and cookies to the tens of thousands of tourists who come to see the Christmas lights.
In the past they've donated the money from sales to Toys for Tots, but this year they planned to give to a cause close to their family's heart.
"This year I lost my stepdad to cancer over the summer, so we decided that we were going to choose a cancer charity," Maugeri said. "I'm involved in baking and stuff like that so we did Cookies for Kids Cancer."
Maugeri pledged $2,500 to the charity, which sent him an information packet with stickers and balloons to put on the stand.
He filed a certificate with the state and was given a permit. But on the Saturday before Christmas, the busiest weekend of the season, he got shutdown.
"They told me to stop and stop what we're doing and what we're doing is illegal."
Maugeri was given two tickets and a summons to appear in court. He faces up to $4,000 in fines. But he says the city went too far.
"This is a fundraiser," he said. "Just like the girl scout cookies, just like a kid making a lemonade stand, just like a garage sale."
He says he's been forced to hire a lawyer to fight the tickets. Between legal fees and potential fines, he's worried he won't meet his pledge to the charity. So now Maugeri is asking for others to help. He's started a Go Fund Me page and hopes to do even more for Cookies for Kids Cancer than he initially intended, with a new goal of $10,000.
"We're happy we're helping legitimate, sick children have a Christmas, and we're trying to bring awareness and funds to help them go a little further."
We reached out to the Department of Health for comment but they didn't get back to us. In the meantime, Maugeri says he'll continue doing everything he can to meet his goal through the new year.