BHB Guest Post: ‘A Fan’s Open Letter to the Wiener Whiners’

BHB received this guest post Monday. The neighborhood wiener roast gets one more grilling… 

(Editor’s note: Please check update of this story here.)

I am a Washington, D.C., native who is lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in beautiful Brooklyn Heights. Consequently, I read the local blogs and am following with bemusement the Hot Dog Cart Incident that has now spilled onto the pages of The New York Post.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Brooklyn Heights’ Coterie of the Chronically Outraged is homogenizing the community into its own sterile Stepford. They are the true blight on this otherwise charming neighborhood. The anonymity of the posts gives people an idiot courage that they lack in real life.

This entire teapot-sized tempest is the Information Age equivalent of running someone out on a rail—to say nothing of the not-even-thinly-veiled bigotry behind it all.

When you make the choice to live in a city—any city—you have to understand and take part in the social contract behind it all. We know that having to endure the sight of a hot dog cart on your Hollywood movie set slice of New York life is an impediment to your lifestyle. It gets in your way as you jog your double-wide baby stroller to your hot yoga session, so that later you can enjoy a post-workout free trade soy latte lovingly prepared in your French press, while reading the latest McSweeney’s post.

Do you know who might enjoy a disgusting hot dog served by a disgusting person? A policeman walking a neighborhood beat. Construction workers and utility people keeping your neighborhood pristine. Your nanny, who really doesn’t get paid enough for overseeing your privileged progeny to dine regularly at your favorite vegan restaurant. A college couple that might want the romance of sharing a hot dog while strolling the Promenade.

God, these people disgust me.

Even the hipster culinary icon Anthony Bourdain, who has come to symbolize the sine qua non of snarky foodie-ism, extols the virtues of “meat in tube form” and more specifically its provenance from the corner street cart merchant. I enjoy the occasional pushcart hot dog in D.C. and New York. I love the opportunity to sit on a park bench and munch happily away while contemplating how social climbing is turning the great American melting pot into an overcooked slurry of self-centered consumerism.

Look, if you don’t want a hot dog, don’t eat a hot dog. But don’t pretend that you are doing the community a service. You are the very models of checkbook charity—giving to popular issues not because you care, but so that you don’t have to actually endure them. It’s not even snobbery. It’s the basest form of prejudice, and it’s sad. For you.

There is a place where you can live your lifestyle free from the horrors of the demon hot dog vendor. It’s called the suburbs. Give it a look.

The rest of us who live in the city would appreciate it.

Alex Cook

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  • Kieran

    Nailed it. Thank you.

  • Bob Sacamano

    I am glad the hot dog vendor is gone. It cheapens the neighborhood. Keep it in Prospect Park or Central Park.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Perfectly said Mr. Cook.

    Bob, funny I was thinking it is a shame that the snobs aren’t gone for it is they that cheapen the neighborhood.

  • Villager

    Gotta hand it to Bob for outing himself as having deaf ears.

  • BklynJace

    Yes, this was awesome.

    I love the Heights (been here for 17 years), but the reflexive hatred of change from its NIMBY contingent is tiresome and sad. Though not as sad as the perpetual terror that “other” people will bring traffic, noise … and worst of all their otherness.

  • DrewB

    Well said. I’ve lived here in the heights for about 15 years, and I’m frankly getting fed up with the elitist attitude of some people here. Finally decided it was time to start looking for a new hood. The ridiculous uproar about this cart is exactly the type of thing that disgusts me and drives me away.

  • AEB

    It’s not just elitist–it’s deeply provincial. Which is to say, it’s blinkered.

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    @BklynJace, let’s not forget about their Colt .45s on the Promenade! None too thinly veiled racism there.

    Nailed it, Alex Cook. Thank you for your contribution. A very refreshing, and necessary reminder of the social contract that we all must respect when living in any city, especially New York City.

  • Peter Kaufman


  • Ibid

    Alex, if I weren’t a straight man, I’d offer to have your babies.

    Thank you.

  • David on Middagh

    Huh? The Heights has various cart-food vendors on Court St., Henry St., Clinton St., and at the plaza at Borough Hall. Some guy with a hotdog carts sets up in an illegal space, is booted, and it receives city-wide coverage because of a couple of rude, anonymous comments in a blog?

    By the way, Alex Cook, it’s very tiresome to hear things like, “If you don’t like city living, move to the suburbs.” Brooklyn Heights is a suburb, in the sense that it grew up as a suburb and many people still commute across the river to jobs in Manhattan. Of course, with the citification of the U.S. (more than half of us now find ourselves in cities) and of the world, no suburb is ultimately safe from the encroachment of mass transit, expressways, and development. So “move to the suburbs” just doesn’t fly.

  • AEB

    (Don’t let that stop you, lbid….)

  • Matt

    Well said!

  • sajh

    I dont get how the hot dog vendor, who leaves at night is something to be upset about but a bright blue advertising rack with CITIBANK on it that is bolted to the pavement is ok. I guess maybe b/c the vendor they see now and the racks are yet to be seen. But in the end, I think hot dog vendors have to have a permit to put their carts in specific places. Correct me if I am wrong. And if he didn’t, which it doesn’t seem like he did (he did get a ticket didnt he?), then it really doesn’t matter if he was selling knock off handbags, drugs or dirty dogs. He doesn’t have a right to be there, then there is no argument. Law is law. End of story.

  • sajh

    Also, while I didn’t witness this hotdog vendor, there are some carts that cook the prezels and put out a lot of smoke. If that is next to your window and making your apartment smell like burnt bread and charcoal (which charcoal smoke is a very bad pollutant) AND that cart had no legal right to do business there, then wouldnt you want the cart gone if you were effected by the smell and smoke? But I guess breaking charcoal fumes is “just part of city life”? Oh, wait, no. It’s “just part of city life” until it happens to Alex personally. Then it’s ‘not in my backyard’.

  • sajh

    edit: breaking = breathing

  • dobrorocks

    This whole story is too ridiculous. Hot dog vendors are a symbol of nyc street life.

    People really need to get a life if they feel the need to complain about a hot dog cart in our midst. The promenade attracts tourists and it is ideal to have a cart to get a bottle of cold water and a bit of meat in tube form.

    NYC has changed a lot and that is inevitable. People living here have become way to whiny.

    -disappointed Native NY-er

  • sue

    Very well said
    There are some… the always elite.. who want to turn the Heights into a museum…beautiful and untouchable.. real people want otherwise.. Another community organization needs to be formed.
    The BHA will not change…Lets organize and keep this wonderful
    community which I have lived in for 40 years alive.

  • raj

    Irony: Calling an entire neighborhood a bunch of bigots and then assuming they are “post-workout, free-trade, French pressed soy latte drinking, McSweeney’s post reading” snobs.

    And speaking of movie sets, it must be wonderful to come from the suburbs of DC to fulfill your movie-inspired fantasy of what NYC life is supposed to be, completely with real NYC street vendor hot dog! You must be so proud to have figured NYC out so quickly to sideline an entire neighborhood in your short stint here.

  • Mr. Crusty

    @sajh if you took an apartment on a commercial street like Montague Street then you have no right to complain about the food carts. You knew what you were getting into when you moved there and presumably you are paying a lower rent than you would have if you lived on one of the quiet tree lines streets. . It is like the people that buy homes near airports (at a discounted price mind you) and then complain about the noise.

    @David on Middagh. So if I am a non-resident and I wanted to munch on a delicious hotdog on the Promenade I should be content that there are food cards on Court Street and at Borough Hall?

    Brooklyn Heights was a suburb 150 years ago. It is not a suburb today, stop acting like it is.

  • CGar

    Excellent letter, Alex. And I agree with most of the posters’ comments today.

    Also, I read that the hot dog vendor was licensed, so I don’t see any legal basis for calling the police or for him being ticketed, let alone driven off by the NIMBY Contingent with their pitchforks and torches.

  • Neighbor Hood

    @DavidonMiddagh- well said. I think that the early ignorant, racist (an might I add seemingly rare and out of place on his blog) comment originally posted about “dirty food and dirty people who sell them” set an unfortunate tone to a legitimate neighborhood question about whether or not this vendor was permitted to be there or not. And the secondary question if he was permitted would rightfully be, what is the city’s plan/policy on these carts at that location ie. are more on the way? how many? what is the city’s official policy for permitting carts at this location since (I may be wrong) in the 20+ yrs I’ve been here I don’t recall carts being regularly set up there. Odd that these obvious concerns got very little coverage in the discussion once the racism reared it’s ugly head.
    As for a person who doesn’t even LIVE here setting the tone of the present conversation (“I live in DC but spend time there”), I find that a bit curious too. Perhaps the DC poster is an elitist who doesn’t really get around the hood much since there are many small business in proximity for us workin’ folks to get a sandwich from a deli or a slice or whatever your budget permits.
    Finally, I also find it curious that this has been tied up in a nice little package with the “NIMBY people who oppose all change”,an “argument” I’ve read verbatim by the same posters in favor of the BBP hotel/condo plan.
    Just tossing it out there for discussion.

  • sajh

    I don’t agree that hot dog vendors are a symbol of NYC street life. Manhattan street life yes. You are right in that this is a silly argument b/c some people will always have a fantasy of what NYC street life is suppose to be. And what NYC street life is in one neighborhood isn’t in another. I think I said it spot on: If the vendor has a permit to be there, then there’s no argument. But the fact is, he didn’t. Case closed.

  • Chill

    There has always been a contingent of people in Brooklyn Heights that want to turn it into a gated community. Resistant to change and anything they deem below themselves. This is why I choose to live in Cobble Hill.

  • CGar

    It’s unfortunate that this story reflects so poorly on the residents of Brooklyn Heights. I have many friends in the neighborhood who are wonderful people and not the least bit snobby.

    I foresee this story going viral with the help of Nightly News or the Times, what with their love of all things Brooklyn nowadays.

  • Knight

    Whether I agree with Alex Cook or not, I have to ask Homer why this person’s views are given “guest post” status while everyone else’s remarks — equally passionate & valid — are just considered “comments.”

  • sajh

    Crust: He can’t get a ticket for just being there. I’m pretty sure the location of carts must be approved. The city generally designates places for carts. He got a ticket for not being in a designated city assigned location. People including the businesses on that street CAN complain if the law is being broken.

  • CGar

    I think it’s interesting to read an outsider’s perspective. It lets some people see how ridiculous “we” look to the rest of the country when some in our midst get so exorcised over such utter nonsense.

  • Mr. Crusty

    sajh you are correct. Mobile food carts are not permitted ANYWHERE on Montague Street from Court Street to the Promenade. See the attached list

    But as we all know there are food carts “near” Montague Street but I guess they are technically on Clinton Street and not Montague. I did not see any restriction on having food carts on Clinton Street.

    Strangely, I think if he had set up off of Montague and on Montague Terrace he would not be in violation. Also there is no restriction on carts on Piedmont between Henry and the Promenade. Some have suggested he should have set up next to the ice cream truck legally.

  • mark

    @sajh Actually there are all sorts of reasons a cart can get a ticket. Such as too close to a crosswalk, too close to a fire hydrant, too close to a curb, the list goes on and on. Last year the city gave out 13,000 tickets to food carts. Since as far as I know no one has seen the ticket for the reason for it, don’t make assumptions. That is unless you can point to a specific regulation the vendor broke. Can you?