Red Hook Food Vendors Marketplace

2008

The project for a “New Marketplace for Red Hook Park” offers a cost effective strategy that can be shaped to follow the needs of the Market. It recreates the idea of the Market by revising the use of the existing fences; fitting them with new uses that respond to the activities of the market and the park and transforming these otherwise barriers in elements of integration and connection. 

The Red Hook Food Vendors have been selling authentic Latin American cuisine in Red Hook Park, Brooklyn since the mid 1970’s. In 2008, after a fierce battle with New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene they were awarded a six-year permit to continue this tradition, but due to health code restrictions they were required to 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 trailers were cost-prohibitive for some vendors and the trailers themselves detracted from the charm and appeal of the former open-air market environment. In Fall 2008, the Red Hook Food Vendors Committee (RHFV) commissioned Architecture for Humanity New York to help solicit designs that would foster the creation of an open-air market place that would create a positive atmosphere for vendors and park-users, while reflecting Red Hook’s larger identity and history. Fostering the open discussion around the subject of re-imagining the Food Market, Architecture for Humanity New York launched the design competition “A New Marketplace for the Red Hook Park Vendors – An Open Call for Ideas”.

In 2010 after continuous design discussions as part of the design process, exhibitions and public and institutional feedback, the Red Hook Food Vendors selected the project by Mateo Pinto and Carolina Cisneros (here displayed) as the winner design. The project revises the role of the fences in Red Hook Park, their meaning, their current use and potential new uses. Fences are in essence physical and symbolic barriers that demarcate or separate spaces. In the “New Marketplace for Red Hook Park” we rethink the existing fences as flexible links more than as barriers, as expandable frames generating a space for integration of the activities already present on the Market, giving a new meaning to this common urban element. The project is comprised of three structures that range from soft(er) to hard(er) infrastructure to serve the market, the soccer field, and the park and neighborhood respectively: - Food Fence: A series of alterations designed for the fence surrounding the park to serve the market. These modifications and portable elements recapture the market’s expressiveness while minimizing its impact on the existing grounds. This fence is opened in rhythmic lengths and becomes the support for customizable add-ons such as tarps, countertops, lighting, trash cans, displays and flag supports. - Field Fence: A new fence following the elliptical path inside the park reinforces the geometry of the soccer field and its perception from afar. This fence embraces new elements like solar powered lights for the soccer field, canopies, seating, wind turbines and other sustainable features. - Multi-use Building: A new permanent two story building is placed on Halleck Street on the south side of the park recognizing its importance as a linking path of the Red Hook Recreational Area with the waterfront. This back bone of services - restrooms, storage, lockers, changing rooms and a trash and recycling center -takes place in reconditioned shipping containers equipped with solar panels and serviced by a vehicular accessible driveway behind it.

The main goal of the project is to develop strategies that reinforce the economic and cultural impact of the market and the value of the park as a public space at the heart of the neighborhood. Specifically with the “Food Fence” phase we explore the design of customizable and portable elements the recapture the market’s expressive nature while addressing variable temporal settings that minimize the impact on the existing grounds. As semi-permanent structures these new layers can be added or removed as the seasons, the neighborhood and the city change.

Re-envisioning Public Space Cultural exchange is an essential urban quality, inherently mobile; it is not always present in our understanding of public space. In many cases we treat or think of public spaces as fixed places and seem to oversee how public domain is most relevant to the temporary appropriation and use of a space. In order to comprehend the true nature of public space, we feel compelled to reinforce the ideas of mobility and exchange within a shared common space, to reconsider pre-existing structures as means, not only as ends. Addressing the dynamics of public space at a small scale allows us to achieve further mobility and adaptability, which by multiplicity and association refer to the larger scale. In this sense we envision the “Food Fence” structure as a project within the project that has the supple ability to adjust to different contexts and contents. Studying and implementing standardized solutions can lay the grounds for other itinerant vending models beyond the Red Hook Food Vendors. Satellite operations generated by the mobility of itinerant vending contribute to the renewal of our constantly changing public space. Furthermore, progressions into larger scale can be established also by liaisons between itinerant vending and existing local initiatives in order to structure a reciprocal cooperative cycle. Specifically, in the case of the Red Hook Food Vendors it could begin by synchronizing the vendors and the well-established local Community Farm. Some of the Farm’s products could be sold to the vendors, who could establish a composting center and work with that of the Community Farm to feed their plantings.

The Red Hook Food Vendors’ case is an opportunity to confront our understanding and use of public space, from the perspective of its spatial occupation shaping the city’s landscape as well as a socio-economic force for integration. We believe that a dialog between empirical approaches and city policies must be established in order to profit from this opportunity and give place to renewed civic activities.  In Fall 2012 prototypes of simple elements and add-ons part of the “Food Fence” phase were made and tested with patrons. This basic kit can be customized to the needs of each vendor and offers: a low table, bar height countertop and trash bag ring. Funding will be sought for the construction of this very first phase during Spring 2013. Depending on funding resources additional elements will be incorporated into this construction phase to cover as much possible of the “Food Fence” structures, specifically the canopies and shade structures. Construction process will be coordinated with the Vendors and part of the work is planned to be executed in a series of volunteer days by the beginning of the season.

Throughout the 2013 season efforts will be also geared towards advancing the design of the remaining aspects of the project while conversations with stake holders and city agencies continue towards the development of the more permanent parts of the project. Ideas competition launched: “A New Marketplace for the Red Hook Park Vendors – An Open Call for Ideas”. The Food Vendors and design professionals reviewed the entries and selected five as finalists to further develop their concepts in collaboration with Architecture for Humanity New York and the Red Hook Food Vendors. Developed design concepts are displayed at the Look North gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Design teams are asked to develop presentation materials including scale models for public display at an event organized by the Queens Museum of Art in Fall 2010. A public input system was installed beside each exhibited design, and a roundtable discussion was held with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and other relevant stakeholders and experts to evaluate important considerations in each design.

A subsequent review focused on community input, capital development requirements, city regulations, costs, and other questions that would inform the development of a successful design proposal. 2011 Partnering with AFHny as a physical sponsor, “A New Marketplace for Red Hook Park” by Mateo Pinto and Carolina Cisneros is awarded a NYSCA grant, devoted to design development in order to advance the project to seek funding for further design and construction. “A New Marketplace for Red Hook Park” receives a Micro Grant and Seed Funding support from AFHny for the construction of prototypes of some elements for the “Food Fence” phase of the project presented to the vendors and tested with patrons towards the end of the 2012 season. This project has been made possible with support from New York City Council Member for District 38, Sara Gonzalez, and Congresswoman and Chair of the Small Business Committee, Nydia Velasquez. Beyond the public exhibitions mentioned above, in February 20013 the printed version of Scapes 8 Journal from Parsons The New School for Design was released featuring the article referencing the project titled “Food Fence” by Carolina Cisneros and Mateo Pinto invited in 2010 to collaborate with this publication.