Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Save The Essex Street Market

Across the street from where we live (see above) are several large parking lots and few unused or partially used buildings that have been part of an ongoing development dispute for 40 years.  Recently the community board passed a plan to start to develop this land now that the Lower East Side is happening - after many years of being grungy, dangerous and decidedly not happening. Not to mention 40 years of squabbling and fighting over how this land should or should not be developed. 

They are calling this project SPURA - Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. 

One of the buildings that is included in SPURA is the Essex Street market, which was built by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1940 to get all the push cart vendors off the street and into one place.

In many ways the push carts defined the Lower East Side, these carts were how many poor immigrants were able to get started in their own business with little capital, so the final chapter of this rich history of entrepreneurism is the Essex Street Market, which is now on the chopping block.  According to the new plan, thus far, the market building is to be torn down and a new market building is to be built a block south and across the street. 

I shop at the Essex Street Market on a very regular basis, it houses an incredibly diverse array of stalls offering everything from local artisanal cheese to Mexican dried peppers and home made Spanakopita.

It doesn't seem to me like a bad idea to move the market to a new building that might offer more space, in a nicer, newer, more organized environment, but it does bother me to think that maybe some of the old time residence would not be able to afford the new space or that the history of this building would be lost, yet again, to greedy developers eager to build more ugly luxury condos. 

The other great thing about the Essex Street market building is how low rise it is, it was built on a human scale, and has served the community for 61 years, and continues to do so and evolve to cater to the needs to the ever changing demographic of the neighborhood.

A website, aptly called Save The Essex Street Market has been launched with information about the market it's history, this particular struggle and most importantly a petition, which I encourage you to sign to help save this import bit of lower east side history.

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