Splitting the Difference
2009. Proposal for an urban design intervention. Brooklyn’s Red Hook Ballfields are a community destination for soccer leagues and spectators and a regional destination for foodies seeking cheap and authentic Latin American eats. But after Department of Health (DOH) regulations forced many of the food vendors to reclocate from in-park tents and tables to food trucks outside the park perimeter, the elbow-bumping atmosphere of the ‘mercado’ was lost. Vending took place on the street, while seating remained inside the fenced-in park. Architecture for Humanity’s New York chapter held an ideas competition soliciting design interventions that could address both DOH’s concerns for sanitary food preparation conditions and the Parks Department’s regulations for vendors, while accounting for the impermanence of the vendors’ presence onsite.
Our team—urban designer Michael Haggerty, architect Bryan Ackley and myself—prepared a design solution that turned the primary barrier, the perimeter fence, into the central organizing element of the market. Outfitting it as a utility channel with electricity and sinks would allow some vendors to return to the park’s interior, with tents and grills; we recommended the Vendors Association purchase two or three food trucks for shared food prep areas that met inspection requirements. Vendors who had already invested significantly in new trucks could keep them. Slight ridges and depressions in the lawn were envisioned to echo the new topography of the fence and to create newly defined and nearby areas for seating. The proposal was awarded an Honorable Mention in the competition.