10 March 2008

Oh Happy Day! The Vendors Previal!

This is certainly strange timing. One day after I complained about the smoke screen the Parks Department was putting out about the Red Hook Park concessions competition, the office sent out this happy and surprising news (I'm reprinting the whole press release because, well, it's not often you want to reprint a whole press release):

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced the awarding of a permit to the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, the same organization synonymous with Latin American delicacies in Red Hook. The permit is effective for a six-year term and will allow them to operate an ethnic and specialty food market in Red Hook Park, Brooklyn.

"One of the great New York City pleasures is enjoying tacos, huaraches and other fine Latin American cuisine at Red Hook Park," said Commissioner Benepe. "The Parks Department is happy to keep this longstanding tradition in place by awarding a permit to the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park."

"These vendors have made the Red Hook ball fields a destination for soccer fans and foodies alike, and I applaud the Parks Department for recognizing the value they bring both to Brooklyn and the New York culinary scene," said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. "Over the past fifteen years, the vendors have been at the vanguard of the Red Hook Renaissance, and now they have another six years to continue their delectable work. I look forward to visiting the ball fields again soon and supporting this Brooklyn treasure."

"On behalf of the Red Hook food vendors, we are thrilled to be able to continue our 33-year-old tradition," said Cesar Fuentes, Executive Director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park Inc. "We have the best intentions to create an even better food market with the assistance of New York City Parks and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It is a beautiful thing to be able to combine culture, cuisine and recreation together to enhance the park’s experience which is so vital to an urban center. To be able to get in the city what you would get in a rural area, fresh wholesome food, is really fantastic. Thanks to New York City Parks for being proactive in supporting this type of small affair of artisan vendors.'

The Parks Department issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for food vending at Red Hook Park earlier this year. When making a determination, Parks looked at factors including planned operations, variety of cuisine, prior operating experience, fee offer and financial capacity. Any required permits or licenses from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must be obtained separately.

In recent years, vendors have drawn New Yorkers to Red Hook Park, through selling Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean specialties. Originally, temporary permits were issued but as the vendors gradually became a permanent fixture, it became clear that a permanent permit was required to best comply with city concession regulations.

The Parks Department also acknowledges the efforts of Senator Schumer, Congress Member Nydia Velasquez, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council Member Sara Gonzalez, Assembly Member Felix Ortiz, Borough Commissioner Julius Spiegel and Assistant Commissioner Betsy Smith for all of their work on behalf of the vendors and the park.

I put that one phrase in bold because it just gives me pause. It reads like an back door excuse for the City to shut down the vendors anyway. The DOH has been such a Puritanical pain lately. That aside, I am overjoyed that the tacos, huaraches and other delicacies that Benepe and I so enjoy will be back again this summer. And for six years! By that time, we'll have another administration, one that doesn't bully creators of good food and urban tradition. Andre, the first ear of grilled corn slathered in cheese is on me.

P.S.—I still want to know who those masked competitors for the vendors' spot were.

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