The Red Hook food trucks draw visitors from all corners of the borough and beyond. They boast some of the best reputations in the city. Every year, people cannot wait to wait in line for their favorite vendor treat.
But in recent years, real estate in the neighborhood has become increasingly more valuable. This new economic boom has taken a toll on the food truckers.
“Every year, we have to renew licenses and pay fees to be able to vend here,” Jerry Guidmald said. He has been hocking meat pies in Red Hook since 1993. “When I first got here, nobody wanted to be here. Now nobody wants me to be here cause they say the land’s too valuable.”
Cherie Montalvio, owner of Ruckus Rise Greek Falafel, says the city make them jump through “new hoops” every year. “First it was Health inspections, which seems reasonable,” she said. “But then they brought in Aroma Testers. Then it was weight restrictions to make sure we weren’t causing too much damage to the cobblestones. We’re not even on cobblestones!”
The truckers also took a hit in business when the Parks Department shut down Coffey Park and Valentino Park for an entire food vendor season. Last year, all except one ball field were closed – and to this day remain closed.
But this year, the city has an even more ridiculous demand. Because real estate developers invest so heavily in election campaigns – and because 2017 is an election year – Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to keep his buddies happy. He promised not to take on extra square inch of space from big contractors that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
“I don’t even know if I can repeat this! I mean, I can’t even say it out loud,” complained Mary Swimpler of Chix & Stix. “That fool of a mayor we have says we have to pile our carts on top of each other so we don’t ‘interfere with new development.’ Seriously?”
Montalvio says she thinks this is another ill-thought out plan from City Hall. “Logistically, how will this work? The city is going to have to create new policy just to protect the safety of consumers.”
The city faces tough decisions on how quickly to move forward with the process. Scaffolding must be built, temporary elevators installed and approved, as well as parking permits issued for the vendors.
Residents are also concerned. Wally Bazemore, Mayor of Red Hook, voiced his opinions about de Blasio’s newest scuttlebuttery. “How’s that fair to the vendor’s? What if the best vendor is all the way up top, and people who are afraid of height can’t get up there?” he asked. “That’s Phobia-ism right there, man. You can’t do that. The mayor can’t judge people based on what their afraid of. Come on, now!”
The City Council will vote on the measure on April 13.