NY Post: Washington Square Park Banning Hot-Dog Vendors (You Read it Here First!) – Gothamist Picked it Up Too!


Moon Mohammad, food cart vendor in Washington Square Park – but not for long

Today’s (Sunday) New York Post:

Update: The print version of the Post’s story has a slightly different title than the online version — it also features photos of John & Justine Leguizamo and Mario Batali — with the heading:  Dog-Gone Elitists:  Society ladies purge Wash Sq. of wieners

Washington Square Park Banning Hot-Dog Vendors

by Kate Briqulet

What a bunch of weenies!

A private, celebrity-studded park conservancy has succeeded in booting two poor hot-dog vendors from Washington Square Park — to make the area less “unsightly.”

While the dirty-water dogs will be gone by the end of December, the city is keeping the gelato stand run by Mario Batali — a conservancy board member — along with a famous Indian cart. It’s also making room for a stand selling gourmet ice-cream sandwiches.

“I will miss this spot,” said Moon Mohammad, 35, an immigrant from Bangladesh who for three years manned a cart inside the park, which is teeming with hungry college students in the heart of NYU. “If I move outside the park, I’ll make hundreds less [a week]. It affects my business.”

In April, The Post revealed the city Parks Department was secretly forming a conservancy with the help of actor John Leguizamo’s wife, Justine, and socialite Veronica Bulgari.

Now it appears the private group was calling the shots well before introducing themselves to the public this summer.

Memos obtained by a park watchdog show the celebs asked the Parks Department to relocate the $2 frankfurters in March — from the arch to the east and west sides of the fountain. Their request was granted a month later.

“This is a private, affluent group of women being given decision-making power unbeknownst to the public,” fumed Cathryn Swan, who first exposed the red-hot removal on the Washington Square Park Blog.

“This is indicative of what their future plans might look like,” she added. “[They’re] treating the park as a pristine garden rather than an active public space.”

According to meeting notes, the conservancy asked park administrator Sarah Neilson to “follow up on moving the hot-dog guy away from the Arch view corridor” and to push for “new and different food vendors.”

Neilson, who earns $88,000 as a Parks employee, also serves as the conservancy’s executive director — an unpaid position some critics charge is a conflict of interest.

Instead of offering the carts other spots inside the park, Parks honchos signed a deal with Melt, a Lower East Side bakery that will sell $4 ice-cream sandwiches.

Batali will continue operating his Otto Enoteca Pizzeria Gelato Cart, which has been in the northwest corner of the park since 2005. The NY Dosas cart — a purveyor of Indian crepes in the park for the last decade — will stay in the southwest corner.

Still, the conservancy denies it’s engaging in class warfare.

“We got some word from our neighbors that [the hot-dog vendors] were unsightly,” said Bulgari, the conservancy’s president. “We suggested moving them based on what other people were telling us. The fact that it was done was Parks’ decision.”

Asked which neighbors complained, conservancy chairwoman Betsey Ely named George Vello­nakis, the architect behind the $30 million park redesign. He declined to comment.

A Parks spokesman said the agency is allowing contracts with the hot-dog stands to expire to “ensure clear views of the fountain and arch and . . . to bring in a more diverse selection of food options.”

* * *

Top Photo: Helayne Seidman, New York Post

Other Press Coverage:

Gothamist picked up the story: Hot Dog Vendors Kicked Out Of Washington Square Park (A lot of interesting comments at Gothamist site!)

Washington Square Park Food Cart Upheaval: Hot Dogs are Out New York Business Journal

Washington Square Park’s Hot Dog Vendors Get the Boot Grub Street New York

Previously – the full background – at Washington Sq Park Blog:

Hot Dog! Private Conservancy Secrets: Food Cart Vendors Vanishing, $5 “Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches” On Way, Mario Batali & More at Washington Sq Park November 23, 2013

Bottom Photo: Cathryn

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5 thoughts on “NY Post: Washington Square Park Banning Hot-Dog Vendors (You Read it Here First!) – Gothamist Picked it Up Too!”

  1. CB members please note:

    It is reasonable to think that any public official, or individual charged with protecting the public interest in an advisory capacity would answer the question “who wanted this done” with documented proof that the people served, the users of the park as a whole, wanted it done.

    This group, however, answered that one of their ‘neighbors’ wanted it done.

    This is not a hot dog stand.

    Things like not telling the truth to the CB when bona fides and objectives and financing of the conservancy were reviewed, change the context of ‘little’ things.

  2. One other thing.

    This matter of the conservancy not making decisions because ultimately “it was a Parks Department decision”.

    This has to be called out for the misrepresentation it is, and this excuse never accepted.

    The “decisionmaking” is active while the question (is there adequate justification for considering the issue, what are the alternatives, what is the preferred alternative) are being worked on.

    If that work is done by a group, and some other group merely does a sanity check on the results, than that other group did NOT make the decision. The other group (Parks in this case) is implicitly asserting that the conservancy is fine with Parks as being the group who did the decisionmaking work, and Parks will go with any reasonable recommendation.

    It is utter misrepresentation to say that such a relationship constitutes “Parks making the decision”.

  3. Hi GV Reader,

    It is telling that when pressed by New York Post as to who these “neighbors” were who wanted the vendors moved, as stated by the one conservancy founder, the other conservancy founder pointed to George Vellonakis! Then, as you say, both entities trying to frame it as a decision that the Parks Department made — the conservancy’s “Executive Director” *is* the Parks Department here working as Park Administrator for the city – which is one more reason why the “dual role” is so troubling.

    You’re right that it is “utter misrepresentation.” And, yes, a lot of the “truth” was left out of information provided to the Community Board.

    Thanks for your comments.



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