Monday, February 11, 2008

Perishable Market

In a fashion that's so often typical of city policy making, there's an effort a foot to terminate the Moore Street Market in Brooklyn and build housing. As the NY Times' David Gonzales reports this morning: "The stalls of this Brooklyn public market on the edge of Williamsburg explode with Caribbean colors and sounds, as local shoppers buy everything from yams and peppers to maracas and mystic potions.What they can’t buy is time. After winning a one-year reprieve from their landlord — the City of New York — the market’s 13 merchants may find themselves forced out by June if the city moves forward with a plan to demolish the building and replace it with housing."

Now we've commented on this before: "The Brooklyn market goes all the way back to the LaGuardia administration but the city says that it is losing around $270,000 a year for the past four years which has the local community board manager shaking his head: "'They said that the Marqueta was 100% occupied and flourishing', said Community Board District Manager Gerald Esposito. "'So what has happened between the end of 2006 and now to cause EDC to want to close the facility, is beyond me.'" But the contradiction here goes beyond the Bloombergistas normal hostility towards small and minority businesses.

What's ironic is that La Marqueta is predominately a market for fresh produce, and is being forced out while, at the same time, the city is promoting produce peddlers in "underserved" areas just like the one where Moore Street is located. Gonzales captures this: "Moore Street is one of four surviving public markets that were built during the Depression to get pushcarts off crowded and unsanitary streets. Now, the city appears to have come full circle, wanting to close Moore Street while it promotes a new generation of pushcarts that would take fresh vegetables to poor neighborhoods. The turn of events puzzled the merchants, who prided themselves on selling so many kinds of tropical fruits and roots that they put up posters detailing all the varieties."

If, in fact, the absence of fresh produce is such a critical public health issue than why is the city working at such cross purposes here? Wouldn't it make more sense to enlarge La Marqueta and incentivize its growth as a fresh fruit and vegetable mecca?

That's not in the city's plans, in spite of the efforts of State Senator Martin Dilan: "Matthew Trapasso, the policy director for State Senator Martin MalavĂ© Dilan, said his boss was not opposed to housing, but only wanted to make sure that the market was upgraded and the merchants allowed to return. “E.D.C. didn’t want to do that,” Mr. Trapasso recalled. “ ‘Fine,’ we said. ‘We are going to do whatever we can to make sure you don’t do anything. We’ll leave it as is and find the money to subsidize it.’ ”

It seems like such a waste; and is so indicative of the current narrowmindedness when it comes to local business. If its not something on a grand scale with billion dollar developers at the helm, it's simply beneath the contempt of the current grandees. Joan Bartolomeo of the Brooklyn EDC has the last word here: “But you can’t have houses without retail. This is a way to put into practice what we preach: preserve local business, provide local goods and keep the resources in the community.”