Red Hook Ballfields

August 12, 2007

It began a few decades ago but until recently, the vendors who sell food at the Red Hook Ball Fields were known only to a select and enthusiastic crowd.

Once upon a time, a group of Latin American immigrants formed a soccer league and began playing regularly on the public sports fields in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park. Located in a swath of open space between gritty warehouses, docks and a vast public housing project, the 59-acre park featured an abundance of room to run and the isolation to make plenty of noise.

There were only two drawbacks to the location: it was a long walk from the closest subway station, and there were no shops or restaurants nearby where the players could buy refreshments. In response to the lack of available food and drink, a few of the league wives brought grills to the matches and began cooking on the spot for their hungry broods.

Soon, the women were cooking at the fields every summer weekend, selling their regional and family specialities to the enthusiastic athletes and specatators. As the league grew, and other nationalities joined the matches, the variety of dishes sold at the field also expanded. Today, the Red Hook Ball Fields offer soccer, baseball, running and the finest of South and Central American home cooking.

When artists and hipsters began to move into the empty industrial spaces of Red Hook, they also “discovered” the vendors under the tents at the Ball Fields. Word spread rapidly, and in the last two years nearly every major local magazine and newspaper has run at least one feature on what New York Magazine described as the city’s “ad hoc Latin American food court.”

In fact, there are two groups of vendors at the Red Hook Ball Fields: the much-lauded, organized cooks near the soccer fields and the less noted vendors across Columbia Street near the baseball fields. Both locations offer home made Latin American specialties, but the newcomers rarely visit the baseball field vendors; as a result, the lines are much shorter there, but there is also far less likelihood of finding a printed menu or a vendor who speaks perfect English.

Lately, the vendors at the Ball Fields have run up against the bureaucrats at the Parks Department and the Department of Health. As a result, many foodies believe that this could be the last summer that the delectable Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean treats will be sold under the tarps and tents at Red Hook. Activist and organizer Cesar Fuentes is doing all he can to fight City Hall, but the outcome of his efforts won’t be known for months.

So, quick, lest they disappear, come down to the ‘Hook and dig into the Columbian empanadas, Ecuadorian ceviche, Salvadoran pupusas, Mexican huaraches, Honduran tacos, Chilean tuna stew and more, along with gallons of fruit waters and mountains of succulent, freshly-cut mango, pineapple, coconut and papaya.

You’ll run out of room in your tummy before you run short of cash; most of the delicious offerings cost less than $5.00 each. While you munch away, don’t forget to watch a game or two.

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The sign at the soccer fields

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Munching on a quesadilla

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Waiting for papusas

Mango, jicima, papaya, cucumber, melon
Cut mango, jicima, papaya, cucumber, melon

Guatemalan goodies on the grill
Guatemalan goodies (including stuffed potato) on the grill

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Grilling ears of corn

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Preparing meat tacos

Aguas frescas (fruit waters)
Jars of aguas frescas (fruit waters)

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Grilling wooden skewers of meat

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Preparing corn with lime, mayonnaise, cheese & chile

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Making charcoal-grilled steaks for tacos

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Eating a hurrache

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Soccer players

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Pitcher during a baseball game

It’s My Park: Red Hook Food Vendors Video
NY Magazine: The Last Summer of the Red Hook Park Vendors?
Eater: Red Hook Vendors Have 10 Days to Address Health Dept.
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook, the Drama Continues
NY Parks Dept: Red Hook Park
NY Magazine: Tour Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez
Time Out New York: On the Hook
NY Times: A Latin Fiesta, Near the B.Q.E.
NY Times: Stuffing Tortillas and Parkgoers, Dawn to Dusk
NY Magazine: Mmmm, the Red Hook Ball Fields
NY Times: A Potted Palm Grows in Brooklyn
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map
Gothamist: Soccer, Swimming Y Salsa
Gothamist: Soccer Mamacitas
Ed Levine Eats: Chuck Schumer Makes Goat Tacos Good Politics
onNYTurf: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map (w/subway lines)
NY Sun: On the Red Hook Waterfront
Village Voice: Plotzing for Masa (Not Matzo)


The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

August 4, 2007

Dragon Boat racing is only in its 17th year in New York, but in China, the land of its origins, the tradition goes back more than 1,500 years.

Dragon Boat racing stems from the death of poet and reformer Qu Yuan, who served the emperor in the kingdom of Chu (present-day Hunan and Hubei provinces) and was regarded as wise, loyal and honest. An idealist who was loved by the common people, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest governmental dishonesty and corruption.

One of his poems says:

In sadness plunged and sunk in deepest gloom,
Alone I drove on to my dreary doom.
In exile rather would I meet my end,
Than to the baseness of their ways descend.

Remote the eagle spurns the common range,
Nor deigns since time began its way to change;
A circle fits not with a square design;
Their different ways could not be merged with mine.

Yet still my heart I checked and curbed my pride,
Their blame endured and their reproach beside.
To die for righteousness alone I sought,
For this was what the ancient sages taught.

Heartbroken, Qu Yuan grasped a large stone and plunged into the Mi Lo river. Nearby fishermen raced to save the beloved poet. As they went, they tried to frighten away harmful fish and “water dragons” by beating drums and splashing their oars on the surface of the water. Sadly, they failed in their mission and Qu Yuan’s body was never found. Ever since, dragon boat races have commemorated his death and the efforts to rescue him.

The people of Chu believed that Qu Yuan’s hungry ghost came back to the river every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and tried to help him by throwing rice in the water. Today during the Dragon Boat Festival, people eat a dish of rice steamed in bamboo leaves called Joong or Zonzi (also known as Chinese Tamales) to symbolize the offerings of rice.

In China, Dragon Boat Races are a major holiday and the tradition has spread to communities with large Chinese populations around the world. In New York City, the Races are celebrated at Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, not too far from Chinatown. 

This year more than 150 teams competed, most of them sponsored by corporations and community groups. Each team had its own tent near the lake, where crew members and their supporters could relax, prepare and celebrate. Some teams even had their own portable restrooms.

They raced in boats made of solid teak, 40 feet long and weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Each craft is decorated with a wooden dragon head at the bow, a dragon tail at the stern and painted with dragon-like scales. A drummer sits in the bow and beats a drum while crew members row furiously.

In addition to the races, the crowd was treated to musical entertainment, martial arts demonstrations, modern and traditional Chinese crafts and sponsor-supplied games and giveaways.

If you decide to go next year, one warning: because the teams supply their own rest areas and cater their own meals, there is very little seating, shade, food and drink available for spectators.

Festival newbies squinted in the bright sunlight, repeatedly trekked to the boat house for water, filled their rumbling tummies with dumplings and noodles (the only foods available throughout the day), and squatted on the scorchingly hot grass. Experienced festival attendees arrived laden with umbrellas, parasols, lounge chairs, picnic baskets and barbeque grills, sat back and enjoyed the spectacle.

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Relaxing inside a team tent

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Spectator with parasol and dragon tattoo

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Working in a sponsor’s giveaway tent

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Tying knots in the craft tent

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Selling knots at the craft tent

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Calligraphy at the craft tent

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Paper Joong/Zonzi for sale in the craft tent

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Face painting at craft tent

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Flying a kite

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Leaving the shore

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Getting into position

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Ready to start rowing

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A drummer in the bow

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Crossing the lake

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Rowing hard

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Manuvering on the lake

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Nearing the turnaround point

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Turning

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A photographer captures the scene

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Posting race results

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A winning team

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York
Home | MAD Dragonboating Club
Xtreme NY – Dragon Boat Crew of New York
Yang Hsien-yi & Gladys Yang: Poetry of Qu Yang
Making Joongzi
Making Joongzi 2


With Liberty and Burgers for All

December 30, 2006

Tonight, a minor commotion occurred outside the Burger King on 14th Street. A statuesque woman emerged from the restaurant and was immediately surrounded by people screaming, shouting and begging for autographs.

Leaning against the front window, New York Liberty Guard Loree Moore graciously signed napkins, menus and scraps of paper and posed for photos with her fans.

A star athlete eating burgers? Aren’t they restricted to diets of filtered water, vitamins, protein powders and tofu? Moore laughed, shook her head, and said that she eats what she likes and she prefers burgers.

Hmmm. A scandal-free professional basketball player and role model who loves burgers? Sounds like an endorsement deal just waiting to happen. Burger King, are you listening?


Loree Moore  Posted by Picasa


The star with fans  Posted by Picasa

New York Liberty
Loree Moore
Burger King


Teddy Atlas on Fear

July 17, 2006

Tonight, in an effort to stay cool and delay going down into the oppressively hot subways, I attended a book signing at the Borders Books store in Columbus Circle (stores in ritzy neighborhoods tend to keep their thermostats set at Arctic levels).

The book signing (and reading) was by boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas who, working with writer Peter Alson, has just published his autobiography, Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring.

During the course of his career Atlas has moved through every level of society, working with the famous and infamous, the beautiful and the ugly, dancers and athletes, doctors and executives, underprivileged kids and hardened criminals. He’s known gentleness and viciousness, redemption and damnation, punched hard, dried tears, heard as many confessions as a priest, felt the power of love and the damage of indifference.

He arrived late, delayed by taping a TV segment at Brooklyn’s Gleason’s Gym and, apologizing profusely, read a long passage from the book. Then, fielding questions from knowledgeable fight fans, he spoke about his work with young boxers, the “Golden Age” of the sport (in his opinion, the 1920s – 1950s), why today’s fighters don’t measure up to their predecessors and why he isn’t working for HBO.

Just before he began signing books, this unmistakably tough guy said something that struck a chord with me. He spoke about fear. Atlas, who is certainly in a position to know, says that all fighters are afraid. Even the men who appear to be the toughest, the most fearless, are scared to climb into the ring. The trainer’s job isn’t to teach the boxer how to stop feeling fear (an impossible goal), but rather, how to live with his fear.

“They’re all afraid,” said Atlas. “Do you think there’s one of them that wouldn’t rather go get an ice cream than fight? They can’t stop being afraid, but they can learn not to show it. They learn to accept it and deal with it and not let it stop them.”

  • Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son’s Struggle
  • Hardcore Boxing: Kimo Morrison and Teddy Atlas
  • Gleason’s Gym
  • Borders Books Columbus Circle
  • Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation

  • Red Dress Running

    September 10, 2005

    A quiet, calm afternoon at City Hall Park. Suddenly, without warning, a horde of … are they men? are they women? performance artists? political activists? monks? … comes running around the corner, heading up Park Row towards Broadway. They are all dressed in red robes. Or, perhaps in … red dresses?

    I jump up to get a closer look. Yes, those are definitely dresses, all kinds of bright red dresses. For moment, my view is blocked by traffic. Three more red-clad runners appear. They stand on a traffic island, waving, screaming and drawing chalk symbols on the pavement.

    Seemingly in response to the shouting and waving, the first group of runners in red dresses turns around and comes roaring back, rounding a corner, startling drivers and pedestrians and hurrying into a dark lane at the edge of Manhattan Island. I run after them and snap a few photos.

    Later, when I get to a computer, I google “red dress” and learn about a worldwide (but previously unknown to me) subculture called the Hash House Harriers that dates back to a running group founded in Kuala Lumpur in the 1930s. What I’d witnessed was announced on the local chapter’s Web site as the:

    Red Dress R*n 2005
    Trail start will be 3:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10th at The Patriot, 110 Chambers St,, off Church. There will be a 2:00 p.m. celebrity makeover hour preceding the start of trail.


    Running up Park Row Posted by Picasa


    Turning the corner by J&R Music Posted by Picasa


    Who are they? What are they doing? Posted by Picasa

  • Booger’s Hash Primer
  • Half-Minds on Hashing
  • Hash Heritage Foundation
  • Go To The Hash
  • Harrier.Net
  • Hasher.Net
  • New York City Hash House Harriers
  • Red Dress Run 2005 flyer

  • I SAID, give me the ball!

    July 31, 2005

    In some New York neighborhoods amateur basketball is very serious business. This Alpha N Omega League game was held in an East Houston Street playground on the Lower East Side.


    Shouting Posted by Picasa


    Watching Posted by Picasa


    Crouching Posted by Picasa


    Dribbling Posted by Picasa


    Planning Posted by Picasa


    Shooting Posted by Picasa


    Keeping score Posted by Picasa

  • New York Sports On Line

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