The Latin American food vendors in Red Hook Park will continue their struggle with the city to set up stands in a once-outcast location that became a weekend haven for foodies.
Despite significant hurdles, the vendors decided to submit a proposal under the city’s new open-bidding process for vending permits at the Red Hook ballfields, on Bay Street, between Clinton and Henry streets.
“They decided to stick on, which is good news,” said Cesar Fuentes, who acts as spokesman and advocate for the 13 vendors.
One of the food vendors, Rafael Soler, added: “We tried to keep it together because when everyone is together, we’re stronger.”
The decision to dig in culminates months of hand wringing that began after the city decided to put the vending sites, where the food hawkers have been operating for decades, up for open bid.
At the time, the Parks Department said its “request for proposals” would be written to give the existing vendors a leg up. But the RFP unveiled last month would bar the purveyors from setting up folding tables, tarps and grills as they have been doing. Instead, vendors must get mobile units, licensed by the Health Department, which cost $15,000–$30,000.
“For a corporation, that’s pocket change,” said Fuentes. “But for hardworking people holding down two other jobs, it’s a lot.”
The city says it wants a lively marketplace, but a spokesman recently suggested that the city is less concerned with who actually runs it — the longtime vendors or a new corporation.