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Monday, December 08, 2008

Red Hook'd: The Future?

Did you visit the Red Hook Soccer Fields this season? Were you happy to see your favorite vendors back and cooking? And were you disappointed with the look, sound and feel of the newly-approved city-compliant mobile food vending units? If so, this heads-up is for you.

The good folks at Architecture for Humanity New York have organized a competition entitled “Call for Ideas: A New Marketplace for the Red Hook Vendors,” soliciting “innovative concepts for a new market place for the Red Hook Food Vendors in Red Hook Park.” In their words,
The Red Hook Food Vendors have been a staple of Brooklyn summers for the past 33 years, providing incredible cuisine and a unique market atmosphere in Red Hook Park.

Earlier this year the Vendors were awarded a six-year permit to continue this tradition. However, due to health code restrictions, they were required to prepare and serve from concession trailers parked along Bay Street at the northern edge of the park. While concession trailers provided a solution that allowed business to continue, the cost associated with renting the trailers was prohibitive for some vendors. Also, the trailers detracted from the charm and appeal of the former open-air market environment.

Entrants are asked to generate concepts that create healthful cooking and vending spaces in a vibrant marketplace. The Vendors are very interested in solutions which address both the City’s concerns for clean and sanitary vending spaces and reflect the desire by the Vendors and their patrons to create a great public market space.

The gist is simple: how to create a better (even permanent) venue for vendors and patrons alike to carry on the Red Hook tradition. The food trucks ensured operation, but they also created logistical problems (longer lines, barriers between vendors and customers, increased noise levels, more cramped eating quarters). AFHny's competition is the first stage in a quest for an alternative solution, something city-compliant that remains truer to the original spirit of the fields and more conducive to Good Taco Times.

The first round solicited 31 entries. A jury was assembled, including architects, journalists, urban planners, a Parks official, and yours truly. Last Friday we selected 8 proposals to move forward to a second round and continue proposal development in collaboration with AFHny and the vendors themselves. This is an ongoing project, still very much in its nascent stages. But I am extremely optimistic: the designs were unique, spirited and often well-conceived. And they took seriously the idea that Red Hook is all about uniting park-goers and vendors in a community centered around delicious Latino food.

We'll keep you up to date as things progress. Just bear in mind that change is possibly a-comin' – even if it takes awhile. The evolution of Red Hook continues, hopefully on terms that more people will appreciate.


Architecture for Humanity New York is a New York City based group of design professionals promoting socially responsible volunteerism through design advocacy, public education, and community action. Unveiling party for the first round this Thursday at 876 Broadway, details here.

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