No one has devoted themselves to the cause of the Red Hook vendors like J. Slab, the blogger behind the Porkchop Express. Today, he interviews vendor spokesman Cesar Fuentes and learns that the tents and tarps have been replaced with food trucks, but the vendors might sell year-round. The highlights are below.
• Fuentes feels to an extent that the vendors won the battle, but lost the war: “Our victory was bittersweet. The physical, unique aesthetic - weather beaten tarps, an old world food bazaar and unique 'mercado' feel - couldn't be kept despite our appeals for its preservation. And the operating costs for each vendor to continue selling in the park may be prohibitively high for some.”
• He also touches on an aspect of the vendors that is sometimes forgotten — how their role in the park has changed since being “discovered” by non-Latinos. “Since many of our patrons now pay less mind to soccer than to Huaraches, the vendors have become the main attraction [in the Park]. When Red Hook was rediscovered, so were the food vendors….the majority has come to accept and embrace the change of demographics. This is why despite soccer tournament attendance being at an all-time low (which reflects fewer Latino customers), the vendors went ahead and invested their time, passion and resources to continue at Red Hook. They could have easily relocated to other fields in the city with a stronger Latino presence, but didn't – even if they felt anger or initial resentment towards the change.”
• Going off the subject for a minute, J. Slab asked Fuentes for his top three tacos outside of the ball fields. “3) Any Taco truck along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens (along the #7 line, specifically between Roosevelt Avenue and Shea Stadium. There are several to choose from). 2) The Taco truck on 96th street and Broadway (Super Taco) in Manhattan. 1) And finally, my favorite Mexican restaurant: El Coyote in Queens on Hillside Avenue and 180th Street. It's a hole-in-the-wall type of place, very small but cozy. Just about every thing is great, and in my opinion they have the best Cecina and Al Pastor tacos outside of Red Hook's own Perez Mexican.”
Red Hook'd: The Interview [Porkchop Express]