NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A community activist and the City Council have taken steps to reconcile after the governing body banned food service from a recent cultural event she had organized.
After the council emerged from executive session during Wednesday's meeting, President John Anderson told Teresa Vivar, the executive director of Lazos America Unida, that the council was prepared to "basically start over" with regard to her applications.
Anderson said the Lazos America Unida can apply to have food service at its event on Sept. 14.
The rift between Vivar, a longtime leader in the city's Hispanic community, and the council started after the Cinco de Mayo event that was held this year.
At a meeting in June, the council said it had received reports from Middlesex County inspectors stating three vendors did not have proper certification. They also said that there was a fear the food was not prepared in an approved kitchen and could pose a health risk for attendees.
The council also said it had received reports that the inspectors felt "threatened by the community."
At the July 17 meeting, the council voted to amend Resolution 051919 and block food service at the La Guelaguetza celebration on Aug. 4 despite protests from Vivar that a paperwork mixup and a language barrier were at the root of the situation.
Vivar moved the event to the Reformed Church of Highland Park.
She was at Wednesday's meeting with several children from the community. It seemed to prompt Councilman Kevin Eagan to address the situation.
"If you think we are trying to hurt your organization or want this type of thing happening, you're sadly mistaken," he said. "We wish that when the county went to your event, it was smooth sailing, there was no problem like it should always go. We didn't call the county and say, 'Go there,' or any of these things. That just happened. Your event got picked out. They do it all the time. They do spot inspections."
He continued: "If we can all say, ‘There were things that went wrong. Yeah, we did things wrong and we’re going to make it right the next time,’ at least me, I’m talking for Egan here, I would like to reconsider because I don’t want you to your kids go without the water and stuff."
When the council re-emerged from executive session, Anderson told Vivar she could re-apply to have food service at the Sept. 14 event that is called "Our Roots."
"Obviously there will be somethings that are imposed by the vendor policy that will be in there, a couple of other things," he said. "Nothing tremendous or anything else like that that you would find terribly wrong.”