Volume 17 • Issue 4 | June 18 - 24, 2004

The return of fruit and commerce

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Downtown Express photos by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Ron Samascott of Samascott Richards in Kinderhook, NY has lots of customers for his fruits.

The white canvas tents poked out festively from under the steel canopy of the temporary PATH station on Thursday. From a distance, it looked like a party, a convention, maybe.

But on closer inspection, the riot of fresh produce told otherwise—the Greenmarket had returned.

On June 17, commuters and residents welcomed four farmers back to the World Trade Center site for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We’ve been deprived,” said Hillary Weisman, 47, a Brooklyn resident who works in Lower Manhattan.

The tables of fresh strawberries, apples, blueberries, lettuce, tomatoes, squash and cherries — set up on the corner of Church and Vesey Sts. immediately north of the PATH station entrance — seemed to fill a void that went deeper than people’s cupboards.

“I’m so glad to see you’re back—I missed you,” Phoebe Ruiz-Valera, 54, told Scott Hill of the Orchards of Concklin in Pomona, New York.

Hill, who sold at the World Trade Center before 9/11, said he was glad to be back in a more permanent capacity. The Liberty Plaza Greenmarket was open across the street from June to December of last year and was always intended to be temporary.

“What has it been, three years?” Hill said. “It’s basically been vacant here.”

The bright colors of the produce stood in stark contrast to the drab gray of the pit behind it.

“It’s weird looking at the hole, though, isn’t it?” asked Mindy Walsh, who works for South Jersey’s Kernan Farms.

Although Kernan Farms had a spot at the Liberty Plaza Greenmarket, Walsh herself never worked there, so Thursday marked her first time back to the area since the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I’m seeing a lot of people I haven’t seen in years,” Walsh said.

One challenge of the new location, farmers said, was that they can’t park their trucks near their stands. This means that extra inventory must be stored under tables, and the trucks’ cigarette lighters can’t be used to power electric scales and other equipment. Truck parking for the PATH farmers is more than a block away on W. Broadway between Park Pl. and Barclay St.

For its first month, the Greenmarket at the PATH will operate on Thursdays only and then Tuesdays may be added based on demand. The market will run through the fall in its current location and may have to move after that due to construction needs, said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesperson.

Some suggested the market would be needed particularly in the heavy construction period to come. For Hill, and undoubtedly for many of his Lower Manhattan customers, the Greenmarket is more than just a place to buy fresh produce: it is a lifeline.

“A lot of people live here and they’ve been cut off from the world,” Hill said. Of the Greenmarket, he added, “It needs to be here.”


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