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Vendors’ season ends

for The Brooklyn Paper
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This weekend may be your last chance to bite into a freshly made Honduran papusa at the Red Hook ballfields.

The vendors, who have been dishing up the cheese-and bean-filled tortillas and other Latino specialties near the soccer pitch for three decades, must bid against other food purveyors this winter for the right to reopen their stands in April.

The city threw the vendors’ future into question when it announced in June that it wanted to formalize the permitting process at the ballfields, which are at Bay Street between Henry and Clinton streets. Instead of re-issuing the temporary permits, for which the 13 vendors pay $10,000 per season, the city raised the specter of a winner-take-all process by suddenly deciding to open the permits to outside bidders.

The prospect of losing their permits was only one thing the venders had to deal with this summer. After the Parks Department announced the open-bidding process, the Health Department started inspecting — supporters say harassing — the vendors more frequently.

But along the way, the vendors picked up the support of everyone from Sen. Charles “Chimichanga Chuck” Schumer to gourmands who didn’t want to see authentic Latino cuisine replaced by the kind of generic hot dog and pretzel stands that ring most city parks.

“All the prominence that the food vendors were given this year definitely helps,” said Cesar Fuentes, who represents the vendors (and was once one himself). “But we don’t know if we’re going to be back.”

The vendors’ return isn’t certain, but the Parks Department succumbed to pressure earlier this year when it said it would give the vendors “preference” in the application process that begins this month.

“We certainly appreciate all that they have done for the community and we would like to see them return,” said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson.

Latin-American and Mexican food vendors, Red Hook ballfields (Bay Street between Henry and Clinton streets in Red Hook), Oct. 20–21, 11 am–6 pm.

Updated 4:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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