Greenmarket to return, but street vendors say no sale
By Julie Shapiro
The Greenmarket in Zuccotti Park will open next Tuesday, despite objections from street vendors who say they will be displaced.
The Greenmarket will return to the same stretch of Cedar St. between Trinity Pl. and Broadway where it set up last year. The market’s seven stands will sell fresh fruits and vegetables along with plants and baked goods every Tuesday and Thursday from next week through late fall.
Street vendors line that block of Cedar St., especially during warm weather, selling hot dogs and falafel to office workers and tourists. Vendors from five carts say they lost their spots last year when the Greenmarket came. The arrival of the Greenmarket put vendors out of work for two days a week during their peak season, they said.
“You take two days from my business it’s not fair,” said Mohammed Ali, a vendor who has worked on Cedar St. since 1992. “We want a fair market to work. It really affects us.”
Last year, the Greenmarket called the police to complain about vendors fighting, and the police confiscated at least one man’s cart and disposed of his food, vendors said.
The Greenmarket operated at the World Trade Center before 9/11 and since the attack has bounced between what is now Zuccotti Park and the temporary PATH entrance. Community Board 1 has been a longtime supporter of the Greenmarket.
The Greenmarket leaders and a group of angry vendors confronted each other at C.B. 1’s Quality of Life Committee last week. Pat Moore, chairperson of the committee, tried to keep the debate focused on future solutions.
Michael Hurwitz, director of the Greenmarket, hopes he can satisfy all parties. Last year, the Greenmarket received a permit for 102 feet along Cedar St., though they did not need all that space. This year, they applied for 72 feet, freeing up 30 feet for vendors. Hurwitz said the extra space is enough to accommodate the displaced vendors.
Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project, said the vendors need at least 60 feet of additional space, so the Greenmarket’s concessions will not be enough.
Hurwitz suggested that if the vendors squeeze together, they will all be able to fit, but vendors said they have to stay 10 feet apart or risk getting a Department of Health violation.
“Every one of us is going to get a violation,” Ali said. “Who’s going to pay the violation?”
The Greenmarket marked off its 72 feet on Cedar St. in green paint earlier this week. Aziz Agigi, a vendor who has worked on Cedar St. for the past five years, was relieved to find his falafel cart just outside of the forbidden zone. Last year, he had to leave Cedar St. when the Greenmarket came.
“This market hurts everybody,” he said. “I don’t know where I go. I’m not leaving.”
The Greenmarket, vendors and C.B. 1 are united on one point: They all want the Greenmarket to move to the north side of Zuccotti Park, along Liberty St. Vendors are not allowed there, so the Greenmarket would not displace anyone.
But Brookfield Properties, which owns 1 Liberty Plaza and Zuccotti Park, does not want the Greenmarket so close to its building.
“They’re adamantly against having [the Greenmarket] there,” said Pauline Yu, from the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. Brookfield is concerned that having Greenmarket trucks on Liberty St. could compromise security at 1 Liberty Plaza, Yu said.
“It’s a shame we don’t have anything against the Greenmarket but the city is making us fight over this spot,” Basinski said of the Cedar St. block.
The Greenmarket would like to set up set up mainly on public sidewalk along Liberty St., which Brookfield does not control, but Hurwitz said that the trucks might encroach on the plaza by several feet, which would require Brookfield’s permission.
“We’re opposed to anything set up that will interfere with the public’s enjoyment of the park,” said Melissa Coley, a Brookfield spokesperson. Brookfield put about $9 million into renovating the park several years ago and wants to keep it an oasis for the public, Coley said.
When U.S. Steel built 1 Liberty Plaza in the 1970s, they received a bonus in floor-to-area ratio for building the adjacent Liberty Plaza, Coley said. The F.A.R. bonus allowed U.S. Steel to build a bulkier structure. The public park across Liberty St. was always privately owned.
At the community board meeting, members appeared resigned that the Greenmarket would have to stay on Cedar St., since Brookfield so opposes the move.
Basinski, of the Street Vendor Project, got angry, saying the mayor’s office is giving Brookfield too much power and C.B. 1 isn’t protesting.
“[Brookfield is] not going to budge, and we don’t have the power to make them budge,” replied Susan Cole, C.B. 1 member. “We are restricted. We are advisory.”
When Basinski pressed her, Cole spoke for the board when she said, “If we have to choose, then yes, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we want the Greenmarket.”
After an hour of back-and-forth arguments, Moore wrapped up the discussion. “No one’s going to walk away happy,” she said. She suggested trying the Greenmarket for a month and seeing how the vendors are affected.
Hurwitz is looking forward to his opening day next week, though he wishes the Greenmarket had space for more than three trucks. He hopes to return to the rebuilt World Trade Center with more farmers and tents.
The Cedar St. location may be temporary, but, “As of now, we have a home,” Hurwitz said.