The State of the Ball-Field Vendors, Plus a Ceviche Exclusive

Categories: PSA

It may be wicked cold out, but if the Red Hook "Ball-field" vendors are going to be in action this summer, the time has come for them to fight for it. Cesar Fuentes, Executive Director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, gave us a full update on the situation.

In a nutshell, the Park's Department has issued a Request for Proposals, and meeting its guidelines would be expensive. As Fuentes put it, "It is more fitted for a corporation than a group of artisan food vendors." In addition, the proposals are due in just ten days. But if they can make it happen, the permit would be good for six years, and the operation may eventually be open full-time (all week, all year). There is competition for the permit, but at this point, it doesn't seem to be fierce. The vendors' greatest opponents remains the Parks Department and the Department of Health.

The only detail about the next season that's official is the sad news that Victor Rojas, the ceviche man whose stand was usually the furthest west on Bay Street, has decided to bow out already because of financial concerns. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the effort doesn't disintegrate before February 22, when the proposal is due.

Let's break it down, shall we?

JANUARY 30:

Fuentes meets with the vendors to discuss the newly-released Request for Proposals and decide whether to continue the fight for preservation and make a bid. They decide to go on.

FEBRUARY 6:

Fuentes and the vendors meet at Red Hook Park with Parks officials to go over the Request for Proposals and meet other potential bidders. At first it seems that Fuentes and his vendors are without competition, but later he learns there are two other groups interested in bidding who did not show up.

THE SKINNY ON THE REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS:

The Good:

  • The Permit is good for six years.

  • There is a chance the concessions will be open more than just weekends.

  • The Parks Department appears to have framed their vision with the Ball-field vendors in mind.—they are looking for an ethnic food market.

    The Bad:

  • The Request for Proposals is complicated and Fuentes fears it may require "a team of lawyers, accountants, architects and/or designers and professional writers" to complete.

  • There is a $2000 deposit just to apply.
  • There are just ten days to complete the proposals. They're due on the 22nd of this month, by 3pm, delivered by hand. "Any later than 3pm and we're goners!"
  • The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has set very strict guidelines as well. Fuentes said "It basically asks for state of the art operation", meaning mobile food vending units, rather than simple tables, and of course vendors (and assistants) must be licensed.

    "The Ugly":
  • Fuentes says the vendors face investments of $15,000-$30,000 or more each in the mobile carts themselves. Obviously, many vendors are deeply concerned about being able to do this.
  • Some vendors have already decided not to go forward. Namely, Victor Rojas, mentioned above.

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