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EaterWire Summer Friday Edition: Ball Fields Safe Until October

RED HOOK—Ed Levine reports, and Chuck Schumer's office confirms, that the Red Hook Ball Field food vendors have secured their permits with the city through October. Though their fate in future seasons still hangs in the balance, this does seem promising progress. Let's cut to the chase:

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the New York City Parks Department has approved a waiver for the food vendors at the Red Hook Ball fields, allowing them to continue to operate through October 28, 2007. Last month, the City Park Department informed the vendors that they would no longer extend their temporary permits beyond Labor Day of this year and would instead open the permits to competitive bidding. The vendors, which have received national acclaim for their pupusas and huaraches and more, have been instrumental in creating the now vibrant recreational and culinary destination at the Red Hook ball fields.
The senior senator from New York had paid the ball fields a visit on June 9th, of course, as a show of support. [EaterWire]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES PERMITS FOR RED HOOK FOOD VENDORS EXTENDED THROUGH OCTOBER

Senator Spoke with Parks Commissioner Today who Approved New Permits After Community Outcry

Locally Owned Vendors Serve Eclectic, High-Quality, Affordable Latin Cuisine that is a Symbol of Neighborhood Vitality and a Weekend Staple for City Families

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the New York City Parks Department has approved a waiver for the food vendors at the Red Hook Ball fields, allowing them to continue to operate through October 28, 2007. Last month, the City Park Department informed the vendors that they would no longer extend their temporary permits beyond Labor Day of this year and would instead open the permits to competitive bidding. The vendors, which have received national acclaim for their pupusas and huaraches and more, have been instrumental in creating the now vibrant recreational and culinary destination at the Red Hook ball fields.

“Today’s decision protects this Brooklyn treasure for the rest of the summer and fall and I applaud the Parks Department and Commissioner Benepe for their quick action. Had these vendors lost their permits before the end of this year’s soccer season, it would have been a blow to Red Hook, Brooklyn and all of New York City. The diverse, cultural vitality they bring to Red Hook is what makes New York the great city it is, and it should be preserved. I look forward to working with the Parks Department to craft a new arrangement that keeps these vendors running and thriving for years to come,” said Schumer.

On June 9, Schumer visited the ballfields and joined with local leaders and New York City chefs asking the Parks Department to reverse course and not revoke the vendors’ permits. Schumer wrote to NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe asking him to reconsider the decision to offer up the vendor permits and continue to allow the vendors to serve their food at the ball fields. In his letter, Schumer wrote, “I urge you to use all the discretion within your power to preserve and promote – and not supplant – this unique and fruitful example of urban renewal and promise.”

Schumer today personally called Commissioner Benepe who informed the Senator that the waiver, allowing the vendors to operate through October, had been approved. The Commissioner also promised that when the request for proposals was issued for the concession at the Red Hook ball fields, it would treat vendors fairly. The Parks Department is still planning on opening the operating permits, which sometimes are sold for upwards of $300,000, for the 2008 season to competitive corporate bidding.

“The Parks Department has heard our concerns loud and clear. Now they must act with all due speed to ensure that the vendors future and place in Brooklyn’s vibrant culinary culture is 100 percent secure.”

Every weekend, the Red Hook vendors sell high-quality, affordable food, mostly Latin-style, at the ball fields and have become a much beloved weekend destination for families throughout Brooklyn and the entire city. However, the Parks Department informed the vendors that they would now have to competitively bid for permits they have held for years, which could result in an exponential increase in fees or the prospect of being out-bid by corporate conglomerates.

Currently, the vendors, through their umbrella committee the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, Inc. pay about $10,000 a season for the temporary permits out of their $30,000 budget, with the remainder going to cleaning up the park. The vendors fear they would be crushed by a $50,000 or higher bid, and with permits at times reaching costs upwards of $300,000 per season, the new policy could make this season the vendors last.

The vendors’ association, and therefore their dues and budget, is intentionally kept small to ensure the quality of food and manageability, with thirteen vendors hailing from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South American that all own their own stands. For most of the vendors, the food stands are a second job, with income just important a motivation as providing a service and being a part of the community.

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CONTACT: Josh Vlasto
June 22, 2007 202-380-5990

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