Volume 22, Number 42 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 26 - March 4, 2010

Photo by Gary Burke

Council Speaker Christine Quinn hopes to bring a large fresh food market at the Seaport every day. The New Amsterdam Market, which sets up there periodically, attracted a good crowd in December.

Fresh food at old fish market? Quinn says do it

Council Speaker Christine Quinn voiced support for a fresh foods market in the Seaport during her State of the City speech last week.

Quinn said the stalls once occupied by the Fulton Fish Market could become a produce and specialty foods destination for residents and tourists, similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle.

“Imagine a market that reflects the history of one of the oldest neighborhoods in the country, a neighborhood whose food trade helped build New York City into a thriving port town,” Quinn said in her speech Feb. 18.

The idea of a market in the South Street Seaport is not a new one, and two smaller markets are already trying to set up there. But the city’s support — particularly financial support — could help either or both of the markets get off the ground.

The mayor’s Economic Development Corp. is already working with Robert LaValva, director of New Amsterdam Market, whose once-a-month events in the Seaport last fall attracted dozens of vendors and thousands of shoppers. LaValva plans to restart his monthly markets under the F.D.R. Dr. in May.

While the city could help New Amsterdam Market, LaValva said it is also important for the market to develop its own following and grow organically.

“It’s a slow building process, which allows it to gain a certain character that relates to the people who shop there,” LaValva said, citing the Union Square greenmarket as an example.

The other market that opened in the Seaport last year was run by General Growth Properties, which has a long-term lease with the city on Pier 17 and the former fish market buildings. G.G.P.’s Fulton Stall Market struggled to find a clientele and cut back its days from twice to once a week, before closing for the season last fall.

Janell Vaughan, manager of the Seaport, said she hoped to return the market to two days a week starting around Memorial Day. She thinks the neighborhood could support a market more frequently and agreed with LaValva that it takes time to build.

Quinn’s proposal is for a 365-day-a-year market, a spokesperson said, but Quinn’s office has not set a timeline or picked an exact location at the Seaport.

G.G.P. hoped to redevelop its Seaport property but those plans are on hold after the company declared bankruptcy last year. The permanent market could go in one of G.G.P.’s buildings or outside under the highway where New Amsterdam Market has set up.

Florent Morellet, Meatpacking District restaurateur and activist, said after Quinn’s speech that he was excited to hear about plans for a market in the Seaport.

“I think it’s brilliant because the Rouse project [the Pier 17 mall] was just such a disappointment,” Morellet said. “It’s got to be a little more funky…. The whole area has a market feeling.”

— Julie Shapiro
with Lincoln Anderson

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