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By TERESE LOEB KREUZER | The New Amsterdam Market proved that though it had been gone for months, it had not been forgotten. On a sunny Sunday at the end of last month, about 6,000 people made their way to the parking lot under the F.D.R. Drive between Beekman St. and Peck Slip, where they stocked up on food from regional farmers.
Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market, had organized weekly markets on South Street since 2010, but this year, he had a three-month hiatus.
There were also lots of familiar faces among the vendors, who responded with broad smiles to customers’ oft-repeated remark, “I’m so glad to see you!”
LaValva’s decision to cancel the summer markets stemmed from what happened in March when the City Council approved the Howard Hughes Corporation’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application to replace the existing mall on Pier 17.
Following the vote, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Councilmember Margaret Chin announced at a press conference that as part of the deal, before Oct. 1, 2014, Hughes would open a 10,000-square-foot food market in the Link Building on Pier 17. The deal specified that there would be another food market in the Tin Building occupying at least 10,000 square feet of floor space showcasing locally and regionally sourced foods.
LaValva pointed out at the time that the New Amsterdam Market occupied 15,000 square feet of space in its transient location in the parking lot, and that renowned farmers’ markets in other cities, where they attracted tourists as well as locals, were many times larger than that.
He decided to spend the summer concentrating on his fight for what he and other preservationists call the “East River Market District.”
At the September New Amsterdam Market, the Historic Districts Council collected signatures for a petition urging the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider the New Market Building for landmarking. That afternoon, 740 people signed the petition.
The building, which opened in 1939, was the last public building to be constructed specifically for the Fulton Fish Market. Without city landmark status, it could be torn down.
Simeon Bankoff, president of the Historic Districts Council, said he hoped the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has rebuffed previous efforts, would change its mind after the next mayor takes over in January.
While the New Amsterdam Market bustled with shoppers and polemicists on Sept. 29, a competing market on South Street — the Fulton Stall Market — was empty and silent.
Backed by The Howard Hughes Corporation, it opened for the 2013 season on both Saturdays and Sundays. Then, because there wasn’t enough business, it was open just on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Finally, in September, it closed completely.
At the Community Board 1 Seaport Committee meeting on Sept. 17, Phillip St. Pierre, the general manager of the Seaport for The Howard Hughes Corporation, mentioned that the stalls, which housed fishmongers from 1950 to 2005, when the Fulton Fish Market moved to the Bronx, will be demolished when The Howard Hughes plan for the Seaport uplands goes into effect.