Update July 11, 2014: The Parks Department is now saying that the vendors that appeared in June were meant to be “temporary” and that permanent vendors will not be in place until August. More to come on this.
Is there trouble afoot with the Washington Square Park “hot dog” food cart vendors? An observant park-goer tipped WSP Blog off yesterday that the vendors were missing from the park and the vendors remain missing from their two locales near the Fountain today.
It has been a month since the vendors returned after being temporarily booted with the threat of a new, fancier option taking their place at the park. In November 2013, this blog revealed that the moving of the vendors and potential banning from the park was due to private conversations between the “new” Washington Square Park Conservancy founders and their Executive Director, Sarah Neilson who also serves as the park’s Administrator working for the city’s Parks Department. Emails obtained via FOIL by WSP Blog showed, that, in March of last year, months before this self-declared “little friends group” came before local Community Board 2 for “approval” and at the time stating they would have no decision making power at the park, they had already begun making decisions!
Organization meeting minutes showed one of the first things they asked their new “Executive Director” to take care of was “moving the hot dog guy” away from the “Arch view corridor” and to look into “new and different vendors.” Within weeks, the vendors were moved east and west of the Fountain (previously north and south). When asked in the fall what was going on with the vendors, the Parks Department replied that their contract would be lapsing and a new kind of vendor was coming into the park. The New York Post picked up the story (getting some memorable quotes from the conservancy founders who deemed the carts “unsightly”) and outrage grew! Due to public pressure and a lot of media attention, the behind-the-scene maneuvering was reversed and it was confirmed that vendors would be returned as of early this year. They returned to two locations in the park in early June.
The carts that reappeared at the park in June were run by the same owners who held the contract for the previous three years. I heard recently that they were concerned that they had bid a bit high with their new bid, more than the space could sustain. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with their disappearance or if there is another issue. Thus far, the Parks Department has not responded with a comment. More to come.
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog: