Brooklyn journalist challenges NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe at Red Hook Park food vendors "return" ceremony

The Red Hook Park Latin food vendors were operating their food carts for over 30 years in that location when the NYC Parks Department threatened to remove them and replace them with more corporate, shiny entities (think Shake Shack-like). Local and political uproar (Senator Chuck Schumer, included) caused the Parks Department (which has oversight over the Park and vendors) to reverse course, a rare and welcome occurrence.

However, the City insisted they get new trucks (costing up to $50,000) and meet other regulations while moving them out of their original location. The vendors had to bid on the location of the spots they’d occupied for three decades when they were “under the radar.” Before Ikea and Fairway were moving into the neighborhood.

Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, who has been covering the issue, challenged Parks Commissioner Benepe recently at the ceremony commemorating the return of the vendors to Red Hook Park.

Kuntzman writes:

…When I went to the “Welcome Back” press conference, I was ready to listen to the speeches, get a few benign quotes, and chow down.

But Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe treated the vendors — and the media — like such children that I lost my appetite. First, Benepe laughed about all the red tape he and his agency forced the vendors’ main organizer, Cesar Fuentes, to cut through.

“We really put him through the ringer,” Benepe joked. “When bureaucrats get together, they can make almost anything impossible. I’m surprised he didn’t give up.”

Many did. Only six of the original 13 vendors were back — now consigned to the street outside the park, rather than inside the fence next to the soccer fields where they belong. And those vendors complained bitterly — though certainly not to Benepe — about their added expenses and the needless three-month delay in getting their final approval from the city bureaucrats who hold too much power over their right to earn a fair day’s pay.

Read the full story and see video (of the event) from the Brooklyn Paper.

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