Saturday, June 16, 2007

Red Hook Vendors Have Parks Meeting; Still No Resolution


(We are reposting a version of this story from last night, since we don't normally post in the evening and some readers might not otherwise see it.)

Representatives of the Red Hook food vendors and City Council Member Sara Gonzalez met with Park Department officials yesterday 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."

Department officials noted that they are required to put the permits out for competitive bid and can't making an exception solely for the Red Hook vendors. Still, Mr. Fuentes told us that "they do do understand the importance of the vendors...and they're willing to work out something." He said 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. We certainly hope they are not stalling until press interest in the vendors diminishes so they can make a negative decision in a month or so when the storm has passed or, even worse, that they will extended the vendors' permits for the full season (a good thing) and then put the permit out for competitive bid in the dead of winter when no one is looking.



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