Weekend warriors have kicked off fútbol season in Red Hook Park, but the beloved food vendors who have ringed the sidelines for decades are stuck in a morass of red tape that could keep them out of business for another month at least.
The bureaucratic snafu is a bitter irony for the vendors, who last year — for the first time ever — were required by the city to compete for the right to retain the locations they established almost 30 years ago.
The first hint of warm weather typically accompanied the arrival of both soccer and the so-called “soccer tacos” to the Red Hook fields, but the vendors are still awaiting city approval of that concession contract and high-end vending carts that are now required.
“We’re still trying to clear off all the compliant issues that need to be met,” said Cesar Fuentes, a spokesman for pan-American vendors (and a former peddler himself). “It’s what the process is. We only hope that it can speed up.”
Easier said than done.
The vendors’ paperwork appears misplaced in the Kafkaesque municipal bureaucracy.
Officials at the Parks Department said the vendors’ contract has cleared their review and is merely waiting for Comptroller Bill Thompson to sign off.
But Thompson’s office said it has no record of it.
Meanwhile, the purveyors of tacos, tortas and tamales need the go-ahead from the Health Department on a new fleet of mobile vending carts.
A spokesman for that agency said the vendors haven’t presented their new carts for inspection.
The city laid out these hoops for the vendors after announcing last year there would be an open bidding process for the Red Hook Park concession. The Health Department also nearly shut down the vendors, but were compelled to relent after an outpouring of support from foodies and elected officials, including Sen. Charles “Chimichanga Chuck” Schumer.
Some vendors are so worried that this season will be lost entirely that they’ve set up stands at the Brooklyn Flea, a weekly outdoor market in Fort Greene.