Bushwick Eateries Shut Out of Brooklyn Restaurant Week, Owners Say

By Meredith Hoffman on March 22, 2013 6:56am 

BUSHWICK — He may manage one of Bushwick's most popular eateries, but Joshua Vazquez said he didn't learn about Brooklyn's version of restaurant week until he saw a poster heralding it inside a Williamsburg cafe.

By then, it was too late to join the major promotional event.

"I didn't hear anything about signing up for it or participating," said the manager of Brooklyn Fireproof East, of the 10th annual Dine In Brooklyn event. "There are tons of great restaurants in Bushwick, and we're in Brooklyn, too. I saw fliers for it in Williamsburg, and I thought, 'Why weren't we informed?'"

Even though nearly 200 eateries joined this year's borough-wide event, organized by Borough President Marty Markowitz's office, not a single Bushwick restaurant appeared on the list, while 22 of the eateries came from Williamsburg, Bushwick residents explained.

Other neighborhoods like Windsor Terrace, Flatbush and Canarsie also had no participants, revealing an unfair distribution that gives "the impression there are no good restaurants outside a few select neighborhoods," Bushwick restaurateur Chad Hensel said.

Hensel, whose Southern-style eatery Mama Joy's has taken off on Flushing Avenue, said he never received information about how to participate in the much-hyped event.

"I hope the organizers stretch more beyond their comfort zones next year to be more inclusive and represent all of Brooklyn," he said. 

A representative from Markowitz's office noted that any restaurant could apply to participate, and noted organizers tried to do outreach around the borough. Each Dine in Brooklyn restaurant offered a fixed-price dinner or lunch from March 11-21, and was highlighted on the Visit Brooklyn tourism website. 

"It's a combination of proactive efforts we make to do outreach...and word of mouth," said Markowitz's rep, Mark Zustovich. "This year there were no Bushwick restaurants that signed up."

The borough president's office reaches out to previous participants and to restaurants it has "read about or heard about," while soliciting outreach help from the New York State Restaurant Association, Zustovich said.

"We do everything possible to get the word out...but we also rely on word of mouth," he said, noting there was a single Bushwick restaurant that participated last year, but that it declined to join the event this year. 

Bushwick Community Board 4 members said Dine In Brooklyn would have given the neighborhood the opportunity for much-needed positive attention amid a flood of negative media coverage about violence and crime in the area.

"Of course it bothers me," said board member Robert Camacho, of Bushwick's absence on the Dine In Brooklyn list. "Why would people want to come to the neighborhood now, if all that's written about is people getting robbed? But this is Park Avenue now, compared to what it was."

Board chairwoman Julie Dent said foodies were simply missing out on discovering culinary gems.

"We have excellent restaurants," she said.

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