Red Hook vendors in bidding war

Red Hook’s beloved Latino food vendors have some competition to control the site they put on the map.

The vendors of homemade tacos, tamales and tostones were the only ones who showed up at Red Hook Park last Wednesday for the Parks Department’s tour for prospective bidders, but the Village Voice reported this week that two unidentified groups will also bid to run the thriving weekend food market.

And besides their anonymous opponents, the Latino vendors still face the daunting task of meeting city enforcement guidelines — rules that could cost each vendor $20,000–$30,000 on equipment. The group has to put forward its formal proposal by Feb. 22 — and pay the $2,000 submission fee.

Some of the vendors, who have been nourishing soccer fans and players at the fields for more than 20 years, are considering taking mortgages to pay for the necessary investments in new equipment.

“We’ll be back, but it will be difficult,” said Eleazar Perez.

In previous years, the longtime vendors had been able to obtain renewable, temporary permits without much scrutiny or expense. The 13 vendors typically paid just $10,000 per season to operate at the park, which is at the corner of Clinton and Bay streets.

That came to an end last summer. After years of growing popularity as an eating destination, the city brought the food market under its microscope, and vowed to formalize the bidding process, perhaps netting thousands more for the city.

But the pressure is also on the Parks Department to finish the bidding process in time for the traditional beginning of the season in April.

“We’d like to have it done by the start of the season, but we can’t guarantee that,” said Phil Abramson, an agency spokesman.