The famed Latino food vendors will return to Red Hook Park this spring, ending months of indigestion caused when the Parks Department invited outside operators to bid on the decades-old taco, empanada and papusa destination.
The Parks Department announced on Monday that the longstanding vendors had won a six-year contract with the city to hawk their tasty fare in the park on Bay Street, between Clinton and Court streets — but the outcome was actually not in doubt, as the city did not receive any competing bids.
The vendors will pay $10,500 per year to operate the market — the same price they have been paying for 30 years.
“We’ve scored a very important victory,” said Cesar Fuentes, a spokesman for the vendors. “The good news is that Brooklynites can look forward to seeing us for the next six years.”
But there is some uncertainty, Fuentes said, because Health Department regulations might require each of the 10 vendors to spend $15,000–$30,000 on food preparation units that meet city health codes, though negotiations are ongoing.
The projected expenses have already compelled three merchants to throw in the towel — and the 10 persevering vendors had that financial burden in mind on Monday night when Fuentes broke the news to them that they had won the contract.
“It’s good that we got this victory,” said Reina Carrillo, who runs a Guatemalan stall. “But we need one more.”
Pending a final agreement with the Health Department, the vendors could open by the end of April.
The vendors’ victory is especially sweet, they said, given how the city had stunned the city’s taco lovers with an announcement last year that the Parks Department would seek additional bidders to run the market rather than allow the vendors to renew the temporary permits they had used for years.
The Health Department also regularly inspected the individual stalls, finding sanitary violations, but held off shutting them down due to intense public pressure.
Even Sen. Charles “Chimichanga Chuck” Schumer showed up to support them. Yesterday, the Park Slope resident said in a statement that “the vendors have been at the vanguard of the Red Hook renaissance.”
That same sentiment was found on local food blogs, which galvanized behind the inexpensive, mouth-watering nourishment, where news of the deal with the Parks Department was greeted with a salivation of relief.
“Soccer fans, taco eater, and all manner of Red Hook foodies can rest easy,” announced the blog “Eater.”
Besides those backers, Fuentes credited The Brooklyn Paper for the vendors’ success, telling them in Spanish on Monday night that The Paper was an important source of support — and business from more than a few staffers.