The first year of the city’s tightened control of the vendors in Red Hook Park is drawing to a close this weekend and no one is happy with the results.
The beloved Latino food vendors and their hungry customers lamented the less-boisterous atmosphere.
In years past, the vendors cooked at open-air grills inside the park’s fences at the corner of Bay and Clinton streets, they now dish out tacos, pupusas and empanadas from the confines of small carts with loud, smoke-belching generators.
“It was more impersonal this year,” said Astrid Corvin-Brittin from Cobble Hill. “I missed the festiveness of all the vendors in the park. Plus, you could actually see what they were making.”
Vendors also pined about the changes, which expelled them onto the pavement outside the park and into walled-in booths.
“We lost that friendly relationship with the customers and it will never come back,” said Marcos Lainez, who sells Salvadoran food (including pupusas).
Not only were friends lost but enemies were made, thanks to new rules from the Park Department that made the vendors bid on the open market for their spot. Then, stepped-up enforcement of health codes forced each vendor to spend close to $50,000 on food trucks.
To make matters worse, city inspectors were slow to give the vendors a clean bill of health, delaying their return to the park until July instead of April or, at the latest, early May. Two merchants said “adios” rather than pay and wait.
When the vendors were finally allowed to begin their season, city officials held a “Welcome back” press conference — but faced a grilling from reporters.
Foodie fans did turn out in droves — but that only made the lines longer, scaring away less-patient patrons.
“Some vendors saw a decrease,” said Fuentes.
Even those who had good business are still saddled with debt.
“I don’t believe that any of the vendors were fully able to recuperate from the financial blow of the season,” Fuentes told The Brooklyn Paper.
The Red Hook vendors will be open Saturday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26 at Red Hook Park (Bay Street, between Clinton and Court streets), from midday until 6 pm. Several of them also operate carts at the Brooklyn Flea in Bishop Loughlin HS (Lafayette Avenue, between Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues) on Sundays.