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TESTIMONY on behalf of the Red Hook Food Vendors

in support of City Wide Permit cap increase.

Honorable members of the New York City Council,
Our names are Cesar Fuentes (former rep) & Marcos Lainez (current rep). We represent a small
organization of business owners. Hard working men and women who have gambled their lives
and most valuable possessions in pursuit of the American Dream. Our organization is small but
well known to many people in the city. Our fans and patrons have fondly nicknamed us the Red
Hook Food Vendors (RHFV). A simple name that describes where we come from and what we
The RHFV have been around since 1974. That is 42 years in business. We are considered by
many to be a Brooklyn cultural institution because we have become a neighborhood staple and a
seasonal staple through the decades. Just like Punxatoney Phil on Groundhog Day, The RFHV
pop up every Spring in front of a small soccer field, heralding the warm summer months and
delicious street foods you can only find in NYC. Heck, we even have a Proclamation! an official
Day in Brooklyn named after the Vendors.
But today, we come not to tell you about the LIFE of the RHFV, but of the DEATH of the
RHFV. Our very own Greek tragedy. You see, exactly 10 years ago, at the peak of our fame, our
market was sentenced to death by Change. Change came to our neighborhood in the form of
gentrification, but we persevered. Change devastated our neighbors and bankrupted our fellow
small mom & pop businesses, but we persevered. Change chased away our most loyal patrons
and took our traditional Mercado feel, but we persevered. We fought back against our very death
sentence to shut down our market, but we persevered.
But Victory against change came at a high cost for the RHFV. We had to compromise some of
the very things that made our market so unique and special to our patrons, such as our open air
market feel. Another compromise was purchasing food trucks, which came at a cost which some
of our vendors simply could not afford.
While we hoped that our food trucks would enable us to expand business to different days and
locations to offset loans and increasing overhead costs, our compromise on a restricted area
permit limited our operation to a single place, and only a handful of weekends between Spring
and Summer seasons. This resulted in many of our vendors going bankrupt, selling their trucks
out of desperation and unable to afford or continue operations at the RHFV marketplace due to
the very permit restrictions. Among them is my family, who are currently struggling financially,
and at risk of losing their home.
Today, out of the 12 original RHFV who 10 years ago where so close to achieving their
American dream, only 4 survive. The highest price the vendors had to pay to fight against change
and persevere was losing 2/3 of its members. Of course, the RHFV market as it stands today is
inevitably condemned to death, a slow and agonizing death of what is still considered one of the
great markets in NYC. One that has been storied, filmed, and countlessly raved & reviewed for
its amazing food and authenticity. One that was once awarded by the Mayor and Small Business

Administration in 2010 the Placemaking Award for lifetime achievement and helping improve a
neighborhood like Red Hook, before change happened, when it was then considered the crack
capital of America, and the RHFV was the only reason that many NYers found worth risking
such a trek.
Honorable City Council Members, while it may be too late for the RHFV market to ever flourish
back to its glory days, the only thing we ask today is that you consider creating 4000 to 5000
opportunities for aspiring vendors who still dare gamble everything for the American Dream.
Who knows, perhaps amongst the shuffle there is a RHFV who is desperately waiting for a
second chance. Because HOPE, dear council members, is the last thing you lose.
Cesar N. Fuentes & Marcos Lainez