OK: Possible final weekend for the Red Hook Ballfields vendors, take #27.
So, I went to Red Hook Park this Saturday, because, once again, it seemed as though the vendors who work there might be approaching their final hour. This time around, the threat is not the Parks Department, but the Department of Health, which apparently only realized recently that the foodsellers were operating on the green— no doubt due to all the press generated by the Parks Department's recent decision to pull out the concessions rug out from under the hardworking Latino families. (They've been there for 30 years, FYI.) The DOH handed down a laundry list of demands the vendors had to meet by today, including portable hand washers/sanitation units and the rental of commercial grade kitchens to prep food.
There were long lines at the park, though this was probably due not to the DOH threat, but to a huge article that appeared in the New York Post today. The Martinez and Lainez stands boasted the longest waits. A blonde thing from NY1 was there with a camera looking for a story. (As a side note here, I'd like to mention that every time I ask a TV reporter if they like their job, they respond in the same way: "I love it!")
I first noticed the DOH inspectors while enjoying chiles rellanos at the Carillo Guatamalan stand. Two, slim, attractive and very young woman. One, who seemed to be in charge, was holding a meat thermometer, which she stuck in everything in sight, and then wrote down the reading. The other, in a vinyl DOH jacket (cool!), was armed with a notepad on which she never ceased scribbling. They smiled from time to time, supposedly reacting to various delicious smells and to jokes the vendors made, but most of the time were deadly sober. It seemed curious to me that food inspectors should be so skinny; perhaps their jobs have scared them thin.
I followed them for a few tents. They declined to comment when the NY1 reporter approached. I could learn nothing of their conclusions, but most of the vendors seemed to think they'd be back tomorrow. Let's hope so. But when I asked one vendor if, between the Parks Department and the DOH, it seemed the City was out to get them, he nodded his head heavily and said, "That's it! That's it!"
Peter Meehan of The Times had something more to say on the subject:
I asked the Department of Health spokesperson what would happen if the vendors had not met all of its requirements.
"We are hopeful that the vendors will comply with what is required,” was the response. “If they cannot, we will work with the Department of Parks and Recreation on dealing with the situation. However, we will assure that the risks to food borne illness are minimized."