Artisanal Market May Be Squeezed from Site of New York’s Earliest Trading Post
The Fulton Stall Market, a highly regarded non-profit indoor/outdoor farmers market that has offered locally grown fresh food in the South Street Seaport neighborhood since 2015, is facing an uncertain future. This has prompted Community Board 1 (CB1) to push the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which is overseeing the redevelopment of the Seaport neighborhood by the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), to take whatever steps are necessary to save the Market, which serves as direct-sales outlet for more than 100 New York region family farmers and small-batch food producers. Unlike the once-a-week greenmarket concept known throughout other parts of the five boroughs, the Fulton Stall Market operates both an indoor market six days each week at 91 South Street, and an outdoor market, typically once a week.
CB1 has heard from a chorus of Fulton Stall Market supporters. In September, Henry Dziekan told CB1 members, “I have a brand of a small-batch hot sauce, and I’ve been working with Fulton Stall Market since my brand launched earlier this year. The Market is an amazing asset to the Seaport area. It offers farmers makers and food producers like myself the opportunity to put our products in front of customers we normally wouldn’t have access to.”
“More importantly,” he continued, “it allows local residents and tourists the opportunity to access farm-fresh foods and small-batch products in one of the largest cities in the world.”
“It’s easy to see how removing Fulton Stall Market or limiting their expansion in the Seaport area would create a lot of opportunity for big business, since the area gets so much foot traffic,” Mr. Dziekan said. “However, we need to support small businesses and bring balance back to the neighborhood. All these small local businesses working with Fulton Stall Market… bring a level of diversity to Lower Manhattan that no other business in the area could match.”
Stewart Borowski said, “I operate a small family farm called the Union Square Grassman. I live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and I grow salad greens in Sunset Park. The people who live Downtown would really benefit from the support that I hope that you’ll be able to give the Fulton Stall Market.” He also called upon EDC and HHC to provide the Market with a larger space.
Patrick Kennell, who chairs CB1’s Land Use, Zoning & Economic Development Committee, noted that while Fulton Stall Market has enjoyed some support from HHC through the years, as HHC has pitched its redevelopment of that area, the Market is now in jeopardy. “EDC could be doing more to help,” he said, “particularly by securing better, bigger space at the TransLux Building,” a mostly empty building at the corner of Front and Beekman Streets, owned by the City and leased by HHC.
CB1 member Bob Schneck said, “HHC at the South Street Seaport is a public-private partnership, based on goodwill, good faith, and commitment. Downtown residents need and demand local, affordable, healthy food and farmers markets. They deserve and demand that the Fulton Stall Market they’ve depended on since 1822 remain in place.” (This was a reference to the earliest of the public markets that historically preceded the Fulton Stall Market, when the Seaport was a thriving hub of wholesale commerce and distribution.)
“We deserve and demand a year-round farmer’s market to complement the exclusive offerings of the Tin Building,” he continued, in a reference to the upscale restaurant and market destination recently launched in Seaport, as a partnership between HHC and celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. “It should compare with Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market,” he added, referring to the public market in downtown Philadelphia that is widely regarded as having preserved the fabric of a historic neighborhood, while also driving local revitalization and serving as an incubator for hundreds of small businesses.
CB1 enacted a resolution noting that an architectural plan was commissioned in 2015 by HHC for the first two floors of the TransLux Building (at right) to house a 10,000 square foot farmers’ public market, but that EDC subsequently leased the TransLux Building to HHC with the requirement that Fulton Stall Market be provided only with a 3,500 square foot space at the rear of the building.
The resolution contrasts this with EDC’s obligation, under a 2013 City Council measure, “to create a Seaport lease which bound HHC to support a farmers market (like Fulton Stall Market) in addition to any specialty food market,” such as the one recently opened in the Tin Building. CB1 argues that “neither EDC nor HHC has honored the commitment to support a permanent and sustainable farmers market such as Fulton Stall Market.”
By October, EDC and HHC representatives had contacted CB1. “HHC made a point of showing how, with time, space, and direct money, they had supported the Fulton Stall Market for greater than five years, including over $700,000 in direct subsidies,” Mr. Kennell said.
“Howard Hughes reps indicated that they certainly want Fulton Stall Market to continue and be successful,” he added, “particularly given all the money that they’ve invested to date. But they said, ‘look, we’ve got to be realistic of what the Fulton Stall Market is capable of doing on its own.’ The EDC representatives noted that they’ve offered Fulton Stall Market 6,300 square feet of space in the TransLux building and that the EDC would forego $1.8 million in rent over about ten years.”
“But according to the EDC financial modeling,” Mr. Kennell continued, “the buildout for that would cost in excess of $8 million dollars. This would need to come from private funds, which it does not appear the Fulton Stall Market has, or has the ability at this point to raise. So the EDC is asking Fulton Stall Market to reconsider the original offer of 3,500 square feet of space at the TransLux Building for now.”