PROSPECT PARK — Visitors to Brooklyn's backyard will soon be able to fill up on nature without going hungry.
The Prospect Park Alliance wants to expand food offerings for the park's nearly 10 million annual visitors and is seeking vendors to sell chow at up to 16 locations throughout the the park, the Alliance announced in a request for proposals issued March 6.
"With the exception of Bluestone Cafe at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park is currently a food desert," Alliance chief operating officer James Snow told DNAinfo New York. "Food is an important park amenity, and by putting out the RFP, we are trying to serve our park community better. ... [W]e knew that this was an addition the public wanted. We've also seen the success of food operations at other big parks. People like to eat!"
In the past, "a few" food carts have operated at park entrances and ball fields, Snow said, but no food vendors currently have contracts to do business inside the 585-acre park. Potential locations listed in the RFP include Long Meadow, the Vanderbilt Street Playground and the shores of the park's lake. "This will be the first time there are legal vendors in many of these proposed locations," Snow said.
The Alliance may not necessarily find vendors for all 16 spots, Snow said.
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The list of locations includes the seasonal snack shop at the Picnic House, where Tip of the Tongue cafe sold food until last fall but will not return, an Alliance spokeswoman said.
The RFP is open to food carts, stands and other "mobile units," and food trucks will be allowed at some locations. Vendors will operate for a three-year term, according to the RFP.
The Alliance not only wants to increase the sheer amount of food available in the park, it's also looking for new cuisines to tempt visitors. In choosing potential vendors, the Alliance and Parks Department "will view favorably menus that are inventive and interesting, serve a variety of options beyond hot dogs and pretzels, and that include healthy food choices," according to the RFP.
That doesn't mean the park is trying to phase out standbys like Sabrett frankfurters, Snow said, but officials are looking for a "broad range of menu items at affordable prices." The RFP invites applicants to suggest their "most inventive, exciting food idea, whether you are selling an assortment of healthy, fresh salads to people on the go, or offering hot and cold delicacies from a distant homeland."
In addition to "inventive" food, the Alliance and Parks Department want the vendors' carts to be attractive, according to the RFP. Officials will get to approve the color and design of equipment, signage, umbrellas and canopies. According to the RFP, they prefer designs that make "a significant improvement to the quality and ambience of the park."
Park officials are also looking for vendors who are easy on the Earth. Favorable consideration will be given to applicants who "use "Green Seal" eco-friendly products such as soaps, cleaners, light bulbs, paper towels, toilet paper and paint," according to the RFP.
Prospect Park has expanded its vendor offerings in recent years, adding the weekend food bazaar Smorgasburg to Breeze Hill in 2015 and bringing the Brooklyn Flea market to Grand Army Plaza in 2016.
Responses to the RFP are due May 8. There's a meeting for prospective vendors March 28 at the Prospect Park Picnic House.