Friday, June 15, 2007

Breaking: Red Hook Vendors Meet with Parks Department; No Resolution Yet

Schumer Red Hook Three

Representatives of the Red Hook food vendors and City Council Member Sara Gonzalez met with Park Department this afternoon about the future of the vendors whose plight has drawn citywide attention. Red Hook Vendors Committee head Cesar Fuentes told GL that although "there is still no answer to our plight, we have good hope that there will be a positive outcome." He described the meeting as "positive" and "good."

The meeting was attended by First Depty Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel, Council Member Gonzalez. Mr. Fuentes was joined by another Vendor's Committee member and a representative of the Urban Justice Center, which runs the Street Vendor Project. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe did not attend.

Mr. Fuentes said Parks Department officials are keenly aware of the strong public reaction to the possibility the vendors, who have been in Red Hook for nearly three decades, will be displaced. "This has become an issue larger than just some food," Mr. Fuentes said. "This is about a cultural heritage. It's about preserving something that's been there for decades."

The Department, however, apparently indicated that it is required to put the permits out for competitive bid and would have difficulty making an exception solely for the Red Hook vendors. "They they do understand the importance of the vendors," Mr. Fuentes said. "They understand the people have spoken and they're willing to work out something.

Mr. Fuentes said that he is confident that "something is going to happen."

The Department did not set a timetable for reaching a decision. The vendors were originally told their temporary use permits would not be extended beyond September 8, although their "season" runs through late October. Mr. Fuentes said they want to remain in the park for the full season as well as finding a long-term solution with the Parks Department.

Mr. Fuentes was upbeat, however, about coming to an agreement that will save the vendors and said that all of the people that make food on the weekends have been touched by the outpouring of community support. "To everyone who supported us and sent emails and petitions--it worked," he said. "They received it and they're very aware. Without the bloggers support I don't think we would have gotten a chance to get this type of attention."

Council Member Gonzalez is said to be pressing for a speedy resolution.

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