Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Absolute Last Straw: City Wants to Kick Out Red Hook Food Vendors


More than once, we've looked at the Red Hook Ballfields and wondered how long the food scene and vendors would be able to survive, especially with the behemoth Ikea opening next year. They may only last until September, according to the depressing news first conveyed by Grub Street:
The Red Hook ball fields, home to the city’s most beloved cluster of food vendors, may be closing for good in September. The city, eager as ever for the fat stacks that only a bidding war by commercial concessions can offer, has given the vendors notice that their Temporary Use Agreement, the permit given to them by the Department of Parks and Recreation, won’t be renewed. The city wants to open the parks up for concession bids, which will almost certainly mean an end to the makeshift food stalls that have been operating there for over ten years.

“They told us that the last day we can operate in the park is September 8,” Cesar Fuentes, the executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, Inc. “The only person that can extend our permit beyond this season is the Commissioner of Parks.”

Today's Daily News reports that the vendors have been operating with two-week temporary use agreements that are renewed and that the Parks Department wants a long-term agreement via a competitive bidding process for the space:
"We really felt it would be more appropriate for them to have a longer-term use license rather than renewing two-week permits throughout the summer," said Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the Parks Department. The concession contract for the park would be put out to competitive bidding, Johnston said, with hopes that the vendors would be able to stay.
"Hopes," however do not mean a lot in a competitive bidding situation, particularly when the mom & pop Latino vendors could be bidding against deep pockets.

There's been some serious reaction already. It's worth reading the post on Serious Eats that calls the decision "a travesty" and promises a petition. Meantime, Chowhound a Chowhound reader has posted the contact information for the city officials that can be contacted.

We are going to drop all pretense of being open minded and say that this is the most outrageous, reprehensible and despicable piece of news we have seen of late and, God knows, there's been plenty of it around. One might even go so far as to suggest that the Parks Department is targeting Latino food vendors so that it can sell the concession to a corporation. GL's blood is boiling.

That the city would force out the Latino Red Hook vendors so that it can make more money from commercial concessions, possibly ones that will cater more to shoppers at the new Ikea, is a symptom of the disease of empty prosperity that consuming Brooklyn.

Shame on all of us if the bureaucrats that dreamed up this scheme are allowed to get away with this outrage. One would think today would be a good day for Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to call the public employee that made the decision into his office and read him the riot act, and announce that it was all a big misunderstanding and that the city understands what an asset these increasingly well-known vendors are.

Here's a handy email link for Mr. Benepe. To give him a piece of your mind about this outrage, click here. Likewise, to tell the Mayor what you think of a Parks Commissioner and a City Administration that would kill off one of our Brooklyn treasures, click here.

Email. Call. Write. Fax. Petition. Repeat After Us: SAVE OUR RED HOOK VENDORS!!!!!!

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Blogger gary said...

I didn't need to get this angry this early in the morning.

Does every place have to have the same soulless, processed crap these days?

What the $%#@%$?!

Thanks for the links, I'll be sharing my views with Parks.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you'r totally right to be outraged. it seems like a small deal, but it's precisely this kind of thing that making nyc less and less interesting. the empty prosperity will eventually give way to just plain empty. :(

10:08 AM  
Anonymous chuck said...

posted your link to the boerum hill yahoo group, and sent the following letter to the mayor and benepe:

The Latino vendors that make summers so delicious around the Red Hook Ballfields in Brooklyn are a borough treasure. These unique mom & pop businesses literally draw in tourists from around the world to a part of our city that desperately needs tourism.

But instead of preserving them, your Parks Department is planning to boot them out and replace them with more bland, un-local corporate fast food.

Please preserve our city's local flavors. Please instruct the Parks Department to renew the Latino Food Vendors licenses and cease their plan to sell off more of our beloved Brooklyn in the name of uninterested corporate profits.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous jukeboxgraduate said...

Just an important distinction: Chowhound didn't post the contact info - a Chowhound reader posted it, and then Chowhound staff promptly locked the post.

As much as I love Chowhound, I find it more and more unusable lately - technically the thing is a wreck - but I'm sorry, shutting this down is ridiculous. Fix your search so people can sort by date before you worry about quashing every kind of life in the posts.

Anyway, letters sent, for what it's worth.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You weaken your argument with baseless accusations of racism. I'm as outraged as you are, but it's clearly an issue of money. You lose credibility by trying to toss another outrage onto the pile.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Gabe said...

I wrote a letter to Bloomberg, Markowitz and Benepe.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous n. kensinger said...

red hook just keeps getting worse.
might as well write the whole neighborhood off now - there is almost nothing left down there worth a damn.

I wrote to benepe but dont think marty or the mayor gives a hoot. they would be happy to see swedish meatballs become the new soccer field food...

sad news.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

My bet is that they'll give the vending contracts to "Latino" food vendors so that they can make it seem like nothing and no one has changed. Yes, it's about money, but race and racism are inseparable from it here. And just one small point: this isn't a "Brooklyn-is-now-less-interesting" problem, but rather a problem of dozens and dozens of families losing valuable income every week.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Preworn said...

Disgusting. The ultimate problem in NYC nowadays is avenues for people to start and maintain modest businesses just do not exist anymore. Either you're a poor schlub who can't get a cart license or your bus-boy at a real restaurant, but try to sell your own stuff on the street? Ridiculous.

It's bad enough the middle-class in the U.S. barely exists. Now this? Give people a break!

I think it would be useful to have a list of many people who started out as street vendors who went on to do bigger things. It happened all the time in the past. Now? Thanks to stuff like this? Not so much.

4:53 PM  
Blogger redhookfoodvendors said...

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your concerns & support for our current situation . We sent a letter to commissioner Benepe yesterday in hopes we can remedy this situation and be able to continue our affair. As I read every comment from each of you, I feel happy to realize we are not alone -and also, how much caring, symphathy, and love you have for us!
As we we are gearing for an uphill battle with the system, we hope your emails sent to Parks Dept. and city officials can -and will- really make a difference.
We have faith that this humble affair, which has become a weekend tradition for all of us, can be saved.

Best regards,

Cesar Fuentes
Executive Director
Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park Inc.

3:00 AM  
Blogger redhookfoodvendors said...

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your concern, care, love and support for our affair and attention to our current situation.
This is indeed a very difficult time for us. As we are about to wage an uphill battle with the system, all your comments and response to this situation makes us feel we are not alone- and also loved.
This show off affection will give us strenght to continue advocating for the rightful preservation of this unique & traditional affair.
Your letters and emails to Parks and city official will certainly go a long way in making a strong case for our appeal -which was officialy sent to Parks Commissioner Benepe yesterday.
Thanks again for your appreciation of our humble affair, which is now, more than ever, dedicated to all of you.


Cesar Fuentes
Executive Director
Food Vendors Committe of Red Hook Park Inc.

3:16 AM  

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