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Red Hook Food Vendors' Sales Plummet After Soil Cleanup Closes Ball Fields

 Only a handful of people were seen lining up for the Red Hook Food Vendors this past weekend.
Only a handful of people were seen lining up for the Red Hook Food Vendors this past weekend.
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DNAinfo/Amy Langfield

RED HOOK — The closing of multiple sports fields in Red Hook has affected more than just the baseball and soccer players who used them.

For years, summer has marked the return of the Red Hook Food Vendors, a group of food trucks that serve Latin American street food near the ball fields. This is the vendors' 42nd year in the city, according to its website.

But after several parks in the neighborhood were fenced off amid a $105 million plan to remediate extensive soil contamination — drying up the typical weekend stream of players and spectators to the fields — business has steadily declined, vendors said.

"We do miss all those players," said Marco Lainez, who helps run his family's food truck El Olomega, where sales have dropped 30 to 35 percent since they returned to the ball fields in April. He would not disclose exact figures.

"[The field closure] has effected the vendors drastically," he said. 

According to the Parks Department, at least four baseball fields will be closed for the summer as well as three soccer fields. The cleanup is expected to continue in four phases through 2022. 

There are currently five food trucks, down from eight last year, operating in the park during summer weekends at their location bound by Hicks, Lorraine, Clinton and Bay streets, Lainez said. 

Lainez said the vendors are open to adding more food trucks to the weekend food fair, but remained skeptical: "No one will be taking a chance coming in."

Country Boys, a popular Mexican food truck, had been a part of the Red Hook Vendors for two decades before its final summer in the neighborhood last year.

"Business was getting a little too slow for us there," said Shaina Martinez, whose father, Fernando Martinez, runs the truck.

"We just noticed fewer people were coming down to the ball fields." 

Country Boys has moved operating on Sundays at outdoor bar Nowadays in Ridgewood, Queens.

One of the family's food trucks can still be seen in Red Hook, but it has been sold to a new owner, who continues to operate it.

Lainez is holding out hope for the opening of the city's public outdoor pools Wednesday.

That includes Red Hook's community pool nearby on Lorraine Street, which could attract kids, families and longtime fans of the vendors.  

"We've been there so long, so people know that we are there," he said.