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Red Hook vendors cry foul over city’s new park rule

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Red Hook Park’s beloved Latin American food vendors say they’re the losers in a new city plan to grant kids more ballfield access than adults.

Thanks to a Parks Department regulation that gives “youth leagues preference” for much-coveted spring and fall field permits, the largely Latino adult soccer teams that have played for years on the pitches near Bay and Court streets might need to find new fields — forcing the park’s famous taco and pupusas sellers to find new customers.

“It’s an important part of our customer base,” said Cesar Fuentes, executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park. “It will have an impact [on business].”

The hungry soccer players account for about half of the vendors’s profits, according to Fuentes — and they also help anchor what has become a vibrant hub for Latino culture.

But vendors and soccer players fear the new rule could bring an end to a weekend tradition marked by ceviche, sideline beers and athletes sporting brightly colored soccer jerseys from around Spanish-speaking world.

In Red Hook, the city’s new regulation could give more space to youth football teams, which are mostly made up of African American kids, according to coaches.

Coach Bill Solomon, whose Brooklyn Titans are competing for use of the turf, says the rule is only fair.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Solomon. “Youth who play sports are less likely to get into trouble.”

Some foodies, however, see the policy as yet another bureaucratic blow to food vendors after a long history of conflict with the city. In 2008, the Health Department tightened regulations, forcing food-sellers to buy expensive food trucks and retire their carts. Before that, the Parks Department made a rule that required them to compete in bidding for a spot.

Parks Department spokesman Phillip Abramson said the city has unofficially given youth teams priority for years — even though the city only recently put the rule into writing.

Demand for the field is likely to increase after a $2.5 million renovation — which includes new lights and turf — wraps up next year.

If youth teams gain a greater footprint in Red Hook Park, the shift from futbol to football could trigger an “interesting cultural fusion,” said Sharon Zukin, a sociologist who wrote about Red Hook Park’s food carts in her book “Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.”

“If it’s a question of livelihood,” she said. “Maybe they’ll start selling more hamburgers than huaraches.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Judah'sSpechal from BedStuy says:
Another example of when two-faced politicians talk about supporting Smal Business they are referring to GE, and the likes. Not the true. Pop & mom small business.
Feb. 20, 2012, 9:58 am
johannesrolf from Washington Heights. says:
Parks are for recreation, they are not created to provide a venue for commercial activity.
Feb. 20, 2012, 11:12 am
jj from brooklyn says:
it's hardly reasonable to expect the city to craft park use around the convenience of food vendors rather than the need of its children.
Feb. 20, 2012, 4:45 pm
ty from pps says:
Please, Judah'sSpechal, oh wise one... Please tell us what park rules should accomplish? God forbid youth teams should get preference for sports on the SPORTS fields. Oh, wait, these are "mom and pop commercial spaces" right?
Feb. 20, 2012, 5:55 pm
Cynthia from Clinton Hill says:
@ mike to hell with German and Irish community cultures, right ? screw them if the Germans wanna have Oktoberfest? and screw the Irish if they wanna have their drunken festivals right? Not all "Latinos" are illegals. Germans and Irish can be Illegals too and?????????
Feb. 21, 2012, 1:47 am
ty from pps says:
Well, this "conversation" took a certain turn...
Feb. 21, 2012, 9:41 am
Citizen from Brooklyn says:
Unacceptable and unnecessary behavior.
Feb. 21, 2012, 11:32 am
adamben from bedstuy says:
children come first. and, as the coach said, keeping them busy keeps them out of trouble. so, sell more burgers and dawgs. btw, who doesn't like latino food? this isn't the burbs.
Feb. 21, 2012, 11:56 am
Anon from Brooklyn Heights says:
If only there were more playing fields instead of places for condos (think, Brooklyn Bridge Park) and other commercial enterprises. Poor Titans, fighting for pathetic few places to play and now getting dinged by the food vendors. Both should have a place in our parks but there are simply not enough places to play - thanks to the bad planning of the parks dept under Bloomberg. He prefers condos to ball fields.
Feb. 22, 2012, 5:40 pm
Genuinely from Concerned says:
I have lived in Cobble hill 18 years-I have enjoyed visiting the red hook ball fields and my cultural experience has been greatly enriched by the vendors, families and immigrants that so lovingly play on and around that field. If you guys want white wash it-call it what it is-you don't want the spics around. But don't say it's 'about the poor children' of red hook-none of you gave a damn about that community until you started buying up 4 million dollar condos across the BQE and taking weekend trips to IKEA. You want to create opportunities for the community-build up our libraries-start after school groups--but no-you want to make all the little poor black kids football players while you screw the latinos out of their home. You people have no conscious.
March 4, 2012, 11:18 pm
BrooklynlOve from Brooklyn says:
Papusa, papusa, please dont go! Who needs more hot dogs and burgers? Too many of those around.
July 15, 2012, 11:56 am

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